AS A cyclist, he was ferocious. Only such a competitor could claim the yellow jersey of the Tour de France seven times. Now, in closing stages of court action in which he stands accused of being a drug cheat, Lance Armstrong has waved the white flag.
Not yet a proven cheat, Armstrong is now a man who has given up the fight to prove his innocence. Instead of entering an arbitration process in which he would face former teammates who have turned against him, the 40-year-old must now live with the clouds above him turning darker by the day.
”There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough’,” said Armstrong yesterday in a statement he posted on his website.
The consequences are so grave as to cast his decision in the sharpest possible relief, with his chief tormenter, the US Anti-Doping Agency, stating it would strip him of the seven Tour titles.
Rather than being ”finished with this nonsense”, Armstrong’s abdication of his legal rights will ensure the furore over the integrity of his incredible seven straight Tour victories continues forever. Only one thing would ever stop it: Armstrong admitting he cheated. And then lied and lied and lied about it.
This is the moral and legal conundrum that appears to have prompted his reversal. ”Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances,” he wrote.
Yet, as determined as he is to dedicate his life to his five children, to fighting cancer and to being the fittest 40-year-old on the planet, Armstrong must surely know the sporting world will not let him.
The director of Sportslawyer, Paul Horvath, was ”gobsmacked” by the news. ”My world is rocked today that Lance Armstrong is copping this one on the chin. This is a very significant development in cycling, international sport and doping,” he said.
Armstrong’s decision doesn’t amount to a conviction, despite the consequences, noted Mr Horvath, yet the public could say it had ”an appearance of not being consistent with innocence” – as does the sport of cycling. If it wasn’t Armstrong, then who did win the 2004 Tour, in which every one of the first six finishers is either an accused, confessed or convicted drug cheat? Cadel Evans, who was seventh, may find himself an unlikely winner. Perhaps the sport will try to pretend the race didn’t happen.
The Australian cycling legend Phil Anderson is adamant Armstrong’s decision won’t affect his legacy. ”He’s one of the greats and will be remembered always as the winner of the seven Tours … not the guy who cheated,” he said.
Despite those prepared to testify against him, Anderson hangs on to the fact ”he’s never been caught scientifically or through the anti-doping process”.
But nothing was going to stop the US Anti-Doping Agency. ”They were just going to continue until the end; until they hear what they want to hear, they’re not going to give up,” Anderson said.
The political strategist and cycling fan Mark Textor says opinion of Armstrong will remain polarised. He raced in an era of incredible performances, said Mr Textor: ”But perhaps that’s because they were not believable.
”The fact that he’s quit on this, with the overwhelming evidence against him, will lose him a lot of fans,” he said.
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.