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USADA strips 7 Tour titles from Lance Armstrong

Suzanne Halliburton
shalliburton@statesman.com

Taking Lance Armstrong’s refusal to fight as an admission of guilt, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency announced Friday that it would strip the retired cyclist of all seven of his Tour de France titles.

The move was expected after Armstrong announced late Thursday that he would not participate in an arbitration process.

“Nobody wins when an athlete decides to cheat with dangerous performance enhancing drugs, but clean athletes at every level expect those of us here on their behalf, to pursue the truth to ensure the win-at-all-cost culture does not permanently overtake fair, honest competition” said USADA CEO, Travis T. Tygart. “Any time we have overwhelming proof of doping, our mandate is to initiate the case through the process and see it to conclusion as was done in this case.”

"As is every athlete’s right, if Mr. Armstrong would have contested the USADA charges, all of the evidence would have been presented in an open legal proceeding for him to challenge. He chose not to do this knowing these sanctions would immediately be put into place."

The Tour de France issued a statement saying it would continue to monitor the case. This is new territory for doping matters. The Tour has stripped two cyclists of their wins. But both cyclists _ Floyd Landis in 2006 and Alberto Contador in 2010 _ tested positive for a banned substance while actually competing in the race.

Armstrong won his titles from 1999-2005 and last competed at the Tour in 2010.

USADA never detailed its charges in a letter it sent to Armstrong in June. In the statement it released Friday, USADA stated “numerous witnesses provided evidence to USADA based on personal knowledge acquired, either through direct observation of doping activity by Armstrong,or through Armstrong’s admissions of doping to them that Armstrong used EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone during the period from before 1998 through 2005, and that he had previously used EPO, testosterone and hGH through 1996.

The agency said “Witnesses also provided evidence that Lance Armstrong gave to them, encouraged them to use and administered doping products or methods, including EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone and cortisone during the period from 1999 through 2005. Additionally, scientific data showed Mr. Armstrong’s use of blood manipulation including EPO or blood transfusions during Mr. Armstrong’s comeback to cycling in the 2009 Tour de France.”

After USADA announced its decision, Armstrong’s two main sponsors — Nike and Anheuser-Busch — issued statements of support for the retired cyclist.

"Our partnership with Lance remains unchanged. He has inspired millions with his athletic achievement and his commitment to helping cancer survivors and their families," Paul Chibe, vice president of U.S. marketing for Anheuser-Busch, said in a statement.

Nike’s statement said: "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.”