By Vernon Felton
In what is undoubtedly the biggest story to hit the cycling world this year, Lance Armstrong has officially announced that he will no longer dispute charges by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) that he doped his way to a record-breaking seven wins in the Tour de France.
Armstrong released an official statement just a few hours ago which began:
There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, “Enough is enough.” For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart’s unconstitutional witch hunt. The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today - finished with this nonsense.
Armstrong’s statement, in essence, does not admit culpability in the matter and suggests, instead, that the world’s most famous cyclist is merely the victim of an unrelenting vendetta.
Armstrong has, indeed, faced charges of cheating since his first Tour de France win in 1999. Despite that fact, the Texan has always been able to defuse those allegations.
Evidence, however, has been mounting against Armstrong in recent years. Several former team members (including Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis) have gone on record as having witnessed Armstrong doping in one fashion or another.
More damning yet, USADA recently announced that they planned to bring Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie and George Hincapie as witnesses against Armstrong in their case. In total, USADA claimed to have 10 teammates that could testify reliably against Armstrong.
In the eyes of many observers, it appeared that the noose was tightening around Armstrong’s neck.
As we go to press with this story, USADA has yet to release an official response to Armstrong’s announcement, but agency spokeswoman Annie Skinner told CNN in an emailed response to that news organization that USADA will strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and impose a lifetime ban from competition.
Innocent but hounded into submission? Guilty and tossing in the towel?
Either way you look at it, it’s a sad day for cycling.