Oh, Lance. How could you?
Thursday’s announcement was stunning.
Seven-time winner of the Tour de France, testicular cancer survivor, Livestrong founder, cancer fundraiser, our hero, our real-life Superman — and you’re giving up without a fight?
OK, so the United States Anti-Doping Agency, led by CEO Travis Tygart, has been on you like a hair shirt.
You’ve passed 29 USADA tests, and you’ve famously said that you’ve never failed a drug test.
But the USADA is convinced that you’ve used performance-enhancing drugs or some sort of magic elixir not pure sweat, guts and determination to win more Tour de France races than anyone in history.
You had the opportunity to go to arbitration and your response was:
“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.”
On your website you 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. But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair. Regardless of what Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims. The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of controls I have passed with flying colors. I made myself available around the clock and around the world. In-competition. Out of competition. Blood. Urine. Whatever they asked for I provided. What is the point of all this testing if, in the end, USADA will not stand by it?
Your decision not to go to arbitration smacks of throw in the towel. Or is it nolo contendere?
Either way the scoreboard will read: USADA 1, Lance Armstrong 0.
The organization has now banned you for life and is intent on stripping your Tour de France victories. It’s yet to be seen if that falls within the USADA’s jurisdiction.
The charges against you on the USADA’s sanction list (www.usada.org/sanctions) have been changed from non-analytical positive to EPO, testosterone, blood transfusions and corticosteroids, trafficking (and) administration to others.
But here’s another side to your story, one that’s not about the bike but something bigger. It’s your effort to inspire cancer victims and to fundraise for cancer research and that has very strong ties to Howard County.
Centennial graduate Doug Ulman, a three-time cancer survivor, founded the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. Now he is president and CEO of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
Brock Yetso, president and CEO of UCF, doesn’t think his group will take a financial hit from the USADA’s decision to ban you from cycling.
“Our donors have supported us and they did it before Lance won the Tour de France,” he said. “Our take is Lance is a young adult cancer survivor and that’s who we are and what we serve. We stand behind him and the work that he does.”
Brock said that Lance is one of the UCF’s largest single donors.
“He has given over $100,000 in the last 15 years. He’s responsible for giving us the money to start our first patient navigation program at the University of Maryland. Now that has grown into programs at Johns Hopkins and other cancer centers.”
As irony would have it, among the swirl of confusion about your decision, the 24 Hours of Booty is taking place in Columbia Gateway this weekend.
“It’s a great example. There’s going to be 500 passionate people supporting Livestrong and the Ulman Cancer Fund through a cycling event. They’re not fazed by what’s going on” with the USADA,” Brock said.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Lance’s and I will continue to be,” Brock added. “I respect his decision.”
The early indication is that donations to the Lance Armstrong Foundation are up so in this fight, the scoreboard reads: LAF 1, USADA 0.