Lance Armstrong’s decision not to fight the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s allegations against him will allow the former cycling champion to side-step a few landmines and keep part of his legacy intact. At this point, that is the best Armstrong could hope for.
Armstrong announced that he would not take USADA’s latest case to court, making the following statement via ESPN.
I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. 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 same ESPN report notes that USADA claims to have blood tests “’fully consistent with blood doping,” in addition to emails and testimony from U.S. Postal Service teammates that he violated cycling’s anti-doping rules. Armstrong will be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.
International cycling has been plagued by doping for decades and several of the sport's biggest stars have been caught cheating. Armstrong now joins Floyd Landis and Alberto Contador on the list of recent Tour de France winners to be charged with using banned substances.
While the USADA claims to have a substantial amount of evidence available to the public, they will never have the chance to fully make their case. On the other side, Armstrong has hundreds of clean doping tests on his record, but due to his recent decision, he will never completely clear his name.
At this point, the answer as to whether or not Armstrong cheated will never come out in a court of law. This leaves people to decide for themselves whether or not they believe Armstrong or USADA, and many people will give the immensely popular former cyclist the benefit of the doubt.
Armstrong’s popularity has grown as much due to LIVESTRONG, his charitable foundation, as it has due to his sporting accomplishments. Armstrong famously beat cancer to go on and dominate the Tour de France, and through his foundation, he has raised over $400 million, according to the LIVESTRONG site, to help those who suffer from the disease that almost killed him.
The most important benefit of Armstrong’s decision to stay away from arbitration with USADA is that it will soften the blow that the LIVESTRONG foundation receives. Armstrong is the face of the organization, and if his legacy was completely ruined, there certainly would have been blowback on his charitable causes.
There will be no closure on the issues regarding the legitimacy of Armstrong’s cycling accomplishments, but his work to raise money for cancer victims is beyond reproach. His cycling legacy has been severely damaged, but he has a chance to build a new legacy going forward by continuing to help people who suffer from cancer.
It was crucial for Armstrong to get out of his war with USADA without damaging his reputation to the point that he could no longer be the face of LIVESTRONG. Simply laying down his sword appears to be the best way to do this, and he will hopefully take this opportunity to focus completely on tasks much more important than cycling.