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Lance Armstrong has picked his family and cancer research foundation over his ego and reputation as the best cyclist of our time. A big decision to make, but not really a tough one. He made the best – the only - decision a family man and cancer survivor could and should.
Armstrong’s trouble began in 1999, when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency first announced that they suspected Armstrong of taking banned substances in 1996, such as blood-booster EPO, steroids, and blood transfusions. The USADA reports that blood samples from Armstrong taken in 2009 and 2010 tested positive for “blood manipulation.”
This past June, Armstrong, 40, released a statement pointedly saying, “I have never doped, and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one. That USADA ignores this fundamental distinction and charges me instead of the admitted dopers says far more about USADA, its lack of fairness and this vendetta than it does about my guilt or innocence. Any fair consideration of these allegations has and will continue to vindicate me.”
A federal criminal investigation into similar charges against Armstrong went on from 2009-2011, but concluded last year with no evidence to support the initial claims. Alas, the USADA did not give up, so Armstrong finally decided he would be the one to break the deadlock.
"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough.' For me, that time is now," Armstrong said in a statement last Friday sent to the Associated Press.
"I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999,” Armstrong continued. “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."
The USADA's chief executive, Travis Tygart, held firm with the agency’s belief in Armstrong’s guilt, taking the stance that his refusal to continue fighting them equated to an admission of guilt. Tygart said, “It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and athletes. It's a heartbreaking example of win at all costs overtaking the fair and safe option. There's no success in cheating to win."
It is likely that Armstrong’s fans will be split by his decision, some choosing to continue believing in Armstrong and accept his explanation that the USADA is on an “unconstitutional witch hunt” again him, while other fans will assume their hero is opting to give up the fight because he just might be guilty. We may never know the truth for sure.
After more than a decade of fighting to defend his name and reputation as an athlete, Armstrong gave it all up in order to refocus his attention where he felt it was more needed – with his family and his cancer research foundation, Livestrong.
Due to Armstrong refusing to move forward with the USADA, the agency has officially stripped him of all seven of his Tour de France titles (which he won in consecutive years, setting a record for most won consecutively). He is also banned for life from the USADA and unable to compete in any type of cycling event, including triathlons, which is what Armstrong has been focusing on since retiring from competitive cycling in 2011.
Although Armstrong is, and probably always will be, strongly linked with his cycling career, he has also become one of the most famous cancer survivors. He is a survivor of testicular cancer and has used his celebrity to further recognition of his foundation, Livestrong, which raises money for cancer research. By giving up his fight against the USADA, he will have more time and energy to devote to the Livestrong foundation.
"I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours," Armstrong said after announcing his decision to stop fighting the USADA.
And it seems that Armstrong’s confidence in his following is well founded, as donations for Livestrong increased notably following Armstrong’s public announcement. The charity received $80,000 in online donations and sold more than $13,000 in merchandise following the USADA’s announcement that they were stripping Armstrong of his titles.
Livestrong has existed for 15 years this October and raised more than $500 million.
Armstrong recognized the support by tweeting, "Thanks to all the amazing @livestrong supporters worldwide. Donations today were UP 25x over yesterdays. Thank you thank you thank you!"
Livestrong’s CEO, Doug Ulman summed it up by saying, "The best thing about this outcome is we can now move forward without any distraction, and Lance can move forward. That's just in the best interest of everyone."