Lance Armstrong was threatened with the loss of
his seven Tour de France titles after he declared an end to his fight
against "unfair" doping charges filed by the US Anti-Doping Agency
The agency said in a statement carried by US newspapers that Armstrong's decision meant he would be stripped of his record seven titles from the gruelling, three-week race and be barred from life from the sport.
Armstrong, who retired from professional cycling last year, said the agency did not have the authority to strip him of the titles.
"USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles," he said. "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."
The International Cycling Union (UCI), the world governing body for the sport, which supported Armstrong in his unsuccessful legal challenge against the agency's case, said it would not comment on the USADA decision to strip the former rider of his tour titles until it received a "reasoned decision" from the agency.
Armstrong accused the agency of conducting an "unconstitutional witch hunt" and said that instead of fighting its charges, he would devote himself to his family and cancer foundation.
"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 cancer survivor said.
"If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA's process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and once and for all put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance," he said. "But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair."
The head of USADA refuted Armstrong's claims of an unfair process, saying it protected the rights of athletes. Travis Tygart said this week that if Armstrong chose, he could receive a public arbitration hearing in which evidence could be given, witnesses heard and cross-examined, and whose verdict would be decided by a panel of independent arbitrators.
Doping charges have dogged the 40-year-old Texan throughout his cycling career but he said he has never tested positive for banned substances.
The agency pressed charges against Armstrong in June. It accused him of using such banned substances as the EPO blood booster, steroids and testosterone and undergoing blood transfusions to boost his performance as far back as 1996.
It said it had blood tests from 2009 and 2010 "fully consistent" with doping and had testimony from other cyclists that Armstrong used banned substances and encouraged their use among other riders.
A two-year federal criminal investigation into similar charges was also mounted against Armstrong, but it was closed in February without any charges being filed.
Armstrong turned to a US federal court to dismiss the agency's charges against him, but a judge on Monday threw out his case while also saying he was troubled by the agency's proceedings.
The Swiss-based UCI meanwhile said it would wait for the USADA decision on the issue before commenting.
"The UCI recognises that USADA is reported as saying that it will strip Mr Armstrong of all results from 1998 onwards in addition to imposing a lifetime ban from participating in any sport which recognises the World Anti-Doping Code," a statement said.
"Article 8.3 of the WADC states that where no hearing occurs the anti-doping organisation with results management responsibility shall submit to the parties concerned ... a reasoned decision explaining the action taken."
"As USADA has claimed jurisdiction in the case the UCI expects that it will issue a reasoned decision in accordance with Article 8.3 of the Code," the statement added.
"Until such time as USADA delivers this decision the UCI has no further comment to make."
Armstrong's former team chief Johan Bruyneel said the process against the former US rider was "unjust."
"Today, I'm disappointed for Lance and for cycling in general that things have reached a stage where Lance feels that he has had enough and is no longer willing to participate in USADA's campaign against him," he wrote on his website.
"Lance has never withdrawn from a fair fight in his life so his decision today underlines what an unjust process this has been."
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