Lance Armstrong, sports' ultimate battler, has given up. He announced Thursday he will not contest the very serious charges by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that he engaged in a massive doping conspiracy for 13 years, which means the seven-time Tour de France winner and famous cancer survivor now has officially earned another title:
Lance Armstrong is Ben Johnson. Lance Armstrong is Marion Jones. By giving up rather than going to arbitration, as many others have done to try to prove their innocence, Armstrong clearly understood he would officially be stripped of his Tour de France titles.
He said in an angry and pointed statement Thursday that USADA "cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles," but that is exactly what the organization is authorized to recommend to Tour officials, and what it fully intends to do very soon. Armstrong said he will sue USADA if and when that happens.
"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," he wrote.
That all is well and good, but that's just like Johnson still maintaining he crossed the finish line first in the men's 100 meters in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, or Jones still insisting she beat everyone else to win the women's 100 meters in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
The official records of the Olympics say otherwise. Because those athletes were caught cheating, in accordance with long-agreed-upon international anti-doping rules, those performances were wiped from the record books.
And so it will be with Armstrong's Tour titles, no matter how long he protests.
Why didn't Armstrong continue to fight through the long-established channels? Why succumb in this manner, knowing that by giving up his reputation will be immediately and likely irrevocably altered?
He says it's because he was not in a fair fight with USADA. He went to federal court in Austin to try to prevent the agency from proceeding with its case against him. On Monday, the court threw out his lawsuit, saying "Armstrong's due process challenges are without merit the court finds they are best resolved through the well-established system of international arbitration, by those with expertise in the field, rather than by the unilateral edict of a single nation's courts."
It was as if Armstrong wanted to play by his own set of rules, on his own special playing field.
USADA rightly was pleased with the court's ruling. In a statement, USADA CEO Travis Tygart gave context that was sorely needed in this case:
"We are pleased that the federal court in Austin, Texas, has dismissed Lance Armstrong's lawsuit and upheld the established rules which provide congressionally mandated due process for all athletes. The rules in place have protected the rights of athletes for over a decade in every case USADA has adjudicated, and we look forward to a timely, public arbitration hearing in this case, should Mr. Armstrong choose, where the evidence can be presented, witness testimony will be given under oath and subject to cross examination, and an independent panel of arbitrators will determine the outcome of the case."
Armstrong, clearly believing there should be a set of rules only for him, chose not to fight that battle. He picked a stunning time to do something we've never seen him do before: quit.
(c) Copyright 2012 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.
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