Although not completely surprising, I was devastated to learn that Lance Armstrong decided not to fight the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's (USADA's) ruling that he be banned for life and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, as a result of unproven allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions. While the International Cycling Union (ICU), which has been fighting with the USADA over jurisdiction in this matter, will make the final determination about whether Armstrong should be stripped of his titles, the weary Armstrong's decision is still a blow.
While I have not always agreed with the way Armstrong has conducted his personal life, he remains a tremendous inspiration to me, as well as millions of other people who are living with or have survived cancer. His determination, his never-say-die attitude in the face of tremendous adversity, and his passion to help others fighting cancer to adopt that same attitude is, in a word, heroic.
I don't have many heroes, but I can honestly say that Lance Armstrong has always been one of mine.
Some people view Armstrong's decision not to fight the allegations as an admission of guilt, but I disagree. To fight a battle that is being waged without merit, one that accomplishes nothing but cast a pall over the entire cycling world, seems like a tremendous waste of strength and passion that could be used to make a difference elsewhere.
In his statement today, Armstrong said:
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 (USADA CEO) 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.He continued:
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?In his conclusion, he proved that he is the better man:
Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances. I will commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a single Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in under-served communities. This October, my Foundation will celebrate 15 years of service to cancer survivors and the milestone of raising nearly $500 million. We have a lot of work to do and I'm looking forward to an end to this pointless distraction. I have a responsibility to all those who have stepped forward to devote their time and energy to the cancer cause. I will not stop fighting for that mission. Going forward, I am going to devote myself to raising my five beautiful (and energetic) kids, fighting cancer, and attempting to be the fittest 40-year old on the planet.I am still hopeful the ICU will not see fit to strip Armstrong of his titles, but regardless, his fans and those inspired by him know the truth. And once again, his determination to choose the path that will make a difference in the largest number of lives, and help those in need find the strength and positive attitude so crucial, I am still proud to call him my hero.
From the bottom of my heart, Lance, I thank you.