HE quit. Lance Armstrong, who never gives up, gave up.
The man who refused to give in to testicular cancer, refused to be defeated by his own frailty or any drug-boosted rival in the Tour de France – and so won it seven times in a row – and refused to cow before persistent drug-taking claims against him by opponents, teammates, media and the US Anti-Doping Agency, yielded.
A last option, to go to arbitration, remained, but Armstrong declined. Most likely, he will be stripped of his Tour titles, but he said he would always know he won them, and so would the cyclists he beat. So he put a stop to what he said was a long and insidious vendetta. He had a life to lead, and causes greater than himself to champion, such as his cancer charity. ”Enough is enough,” he said.
Tacitly, his surrender could be read as self-incrimination, though his lawyer vehemently threatened action against anyone who took this view, including the USADA.
Armstrong laboured his innocence, again. But World Anti-Doping Agency president, Australia’s John Fahey, said Armstrong now had lent substance to the charges against him.
The trouble for Armstrong – and for cycling generally – is that the fight he has just walked away from was against a ghost.
He could feel the cancer and see his rivals, and be pretty certain of the moment when they were beaten, and so did not relax until they were. But drugs? Invisible, odourless drugs, almost untraceable if administered expertly, which meant he could no more prove he had not taken them than authorities could prove that he did. In sport, the presumption of innocence was forfeited long ago.
Slowly, a body of damning circumstantial evidence built up against Armstrong. Threading it was a certain disbelief that in a sport more and more exposed as dirty in the Armstrong era, one squeaky clean rider kept beating the cheats anyway, over and over.
Bitterly, he protested each new claim, saying it was insupportable, or sketchy, or sinisterly motivated – jealousy, vindictiveness, money, grubby plea bargaining. A US judge sided with him to the extent that he sensed the USADA was acting from less-than-noble motives, but said he did not have the power to intervene.
Armstrong’s bottom-line defence always was that he had been tested hundreds of times in dozens of ways and never failed. But everyone knows that might mean only that the tests failed. They had often enough before.
As long as Armstrong stood his ground, at last half the world was prepared to stand with him. He was and is a charismatic figure, an apostle of cycling and, for cancer sufferers, a celebrity. He was above suspicion because we wanted and needed him to be.
Now, all will review their positions. Armstrong said the system was loaded against him and he could never hope for a fair outcome. That was why he was calling off the fight.
But it accords with no other pursuit in Armstrong’s driven and fanatical life that he would give up just because it seemed he couldn’t win.
About Lance Armstrong, one incontestable fact will remain: he quit.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.