* "Enough is enough", says seven-times Tour de France winner
* Debate begins on whether cyclist is guilty
* His endorsement opportunities may dry up
By Dan Whitcomb
LOS ANGELES, Aug 24 Lance Armstrong was stripped
of his record seven Tour de France wins and handed a lifetime
ban by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) on Friday,
but he remained defiant as supporters rallied around the
Saying, "enough is enough", Armstrong sent out a statement
late on Thursday indicating that he would not challenge USADA's
charges he had doped throughout his career, though he continued
to deny he ever used performance-enhancing drugs.
While the USADA can remove Armstrong's titles, such a
decision could ultimately rest with the Court of Arbitration for
Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, should the International Cycling
Union (UCI) challenge the USADA's ruling.
But weary from years of denial, legal battles, skirmishes
with former-team mates and anti-doping chiefs, it is a fight
Armstrong says he no longer has the stomach for.
"Today I will turn the page," Armstrong said. "I will no
longer address this issue regardless of the circumstances."
Armstrong may have turned the page but the story is far from
One of the sporting world's most polarizing figures,
Armstrong remains a hero to millions of cancer survivors for
beating the disease and coming back to win the Tour de France a
record seven times. To others, he is a drug cheat and fraud.
World Anti-doping Agency (WADA) chief John Fahey said that
Armstrong's decision not to contest the allegations adds up to
nothing more than an admission of guilt.
"He had the right to rip up those charges, but he elected
n ot to. Therefore the only interpretation in these circumstances
is that there was substance in those charges," Fahey told
Reuters in a telephone interview on Friday.
The debate over Armstrong's guilt will now rage, with some
heavy hitters like longtime sponsor Nike, the world's biggest
sportswear maker, lining up alongside the disgraced cyclist,
while anti-doping crusaders proudly claim victory.
Since 2004, Nike has helped Livestrong, Armstrong's
organization to help cancer survivors, raise over $100 million
for cancer research and created the Livestrong yellow wristbands
that became a global phenomenon with over 84 million bands
"Lance has stated his innocence and has been unwavering on
this position. Nike plans to continue to support Lance and the
Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation that Lance created to
serve cancer survivors," Nike said in a statement.
Armstrong, 40, has been one of the most successful and
controversial cyclists of all time, returning to the sport after
beating cancer to win the Tour de France seven straight times,
from 1999 to 2005.
Livestrong takes its inspiration from his achievements and
recovery from testicular cancer that also made him a hero to
many and boosted the sport's popularity in the United States.
The cyclist also made many enemies throughout his career,
with several of his former teammates and colleagues allegedly
ready to testify he doped.
Former teammate and deposed Tour de France winner Floyd
Landis accused Armstrong in 2010 of using performance-enhancing
drugs and teaching others how to avoid being caught.
But Armstrong also has his loyalists, outside and inside the
sport, such as Jim Ochowicz, director of the BMC cycling team
and a long-time friend who helped him when he was an amateur
rider and young professional.
"As a friend of Lance's, I support his decision to call it
an end," said Ochowicz. "He has done so much for our sport over
the years, and I am sad at what has transpired.
"I love him. I know he still has a big fight ahead of him
and his battle of trying to find a cure for cancer and help
survivors and carry on with the Lance Armstrong foundation.
"I think he has earned every victory he's had," he said.
The USADA, however, believes it has enough compelling
evidence to prove Armstrong did not claim his victories fairly.
A quasi-governmental agency created by the U.S. Congress in
2000, the USADA formally charged Armstrong in June with doping
and taking part in a conspiracy with members of his championship
EVIDENCE AGAINST ARMSTRONG IN HAND
The agency said in a letter to Armstrong that it has blood
samples from 2009 and 2010 that are "fully consistent" with
Michael McCann, an expert in sports law at Vermont Law
School, said that Armstrong's decision to not contest the USADA
charges in arbitration might have been the cyclist's best option
in the face of mounting circumstantial evidence.
"This gives his supporters reason to support him," McCann
told Reuters. "Whereas if he had gone to arbitration and lost -
which I think almost definitely would have happened - from a
public relations standpoint, that would have been much more
In losing his titles, Armstrong joins Canadian Ben Johnson
and American Marion Jones as the highest-profile athletes to
lose championships as a result of doping sanctions.
Johnson was stripped of the 1988 Seoul Olympics 100 metres
title after testing positive for a steroid, while Jones lost her
2000 Sydney Olympics 100, 200 and 4x400 metres relay gold medals
when she confessed she had been taking drugs at the time.
Armstrong may not be able to simply turn his back on the
saga and walk away with his head held high.
There is the possibility he could face legal action from
promoters and race organizers looking to recover prize money.
"My sense is they're not going to sue (him) for the money
because it would be an expensive piece of litigation," said
Brian Getz, a criminal defense attorney who represented an
American sprinter against doping allegations. "It may not be
worth it to the organization trying to recover the funds."
It also remains to be seen what impact the USADA's action
will have on Armstrong's endorsement potential and ability to
continue to raise funds for his foundation.
Despite having his reputation tarnished, Armstrong's triumph
over cancer and fundraising efforts make him a valuable
pitchman, say marketing experts.
While Nike was quick to stand by Armstrong, his other
sponsors, including RadioShack ; exercise bike maker
Johnson Health Tech ; sunglass maker Oakley, owned by
Italy's Luxottica ; and Michelob, made by Anheuser-Busch
InBev, have not leapt to his defence.
Robert Boland, professor of sports management at New York
University, said Armstrong's extensive work on cancer will help
blunt the impact of the lost titles.
"His story has not been diminished. Here's a guy who
essentially was at death's door with cancer and came back. That
example still makes him very compelling," he said.
Still, Boland said it would be difficult for Armstrong to
continue to endorse bicycles or bicycle equipment, since he is
now banned from competitions.
"If he can't show up at certain events, how do you use him?"
With the possibility that each of his seven Tour de France
crowns could go to other riders, Armstrong maintained that no
matter what the USADA has ruled, those he competed with and
against will always know he was the true winner.
Spain's Fernando Escartin, who will rise from third to
second in the 1999 Tour de France following the USADA's
decision, said the American would always be the champion.
"For me, Lance Armstrong remains the 1999 Tour winner, second
Zulle and third, me," the now-retired Escartin told
Reuters at the Vuelta a Espana race on Friday.
"It's 13 years now since this all happened. It seems
completely illogical and unreal. I don't want to even think