Lance Armstrong appears to suggest he won’t fight expected USADA doping case
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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Lance Armstrong appears to suggest he won’t fight expected USADA doping case

by Shane Stokes at 10:39 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Doping
 
‘It doesn’t matter any more’; Texan accepts he could lose Tour titles

Lance ArmstrongThree months after the federal investigation into him and the US Postal Service team was unexpectedly dropped, multiple Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has given his longest interview yet relating to that enquiry.

Somewhat surprisingly, the American appears to indicate that he won’t fight future investigations, and acknowledges that he could lose at least one Tour title as a result.

“In my mind, I’m truly done. You can interpret that however you want,” he said in a long Men’s Journal interview, being released this week and dealing mainly with his bid to win an Ironman. “But no matter what happens, I’m finished. I’m done fighting. I’ve moved on. If there are other things that arise, I’m not contesting anything. Case closed.”

With the federal investigation at an end, the remaining sources of enquiry are the current USADA action looking into claims of doping, plus a possible whistleblower case brought by Floyd Landis.

Asked if he would fight to keep his seven Tour de France titles, he said that he wouldn’t. “It doesn’t matter anymore. I don’t run around bragging, feeling like I have to be a seven-time Tour de France champion,” he answered. “I worked hard for those, I won seven times and it’s great. But it’s over.”

He gave a short answer when writer Josh Eells asked him how he would react if his seventh Tour victory was struck off, presumably by USADA. “I wouldn’t be unhappy,” he said, appearing to have come to terms with that possibility.

Armstrong has been accused on several occasions of using performance enhancing substances during his career, but has always denied it. However in May 2010 former team-mate Floyd Landis spoke out, admitting his own doping and accusing Armstrong, team manager Johan Bruyneel and others from the US Postal Service team of using blood boosters, illegal transfusions and other banned substances and methods.

The Texan rejected the claims, saying that Landis was lying, but then other former team-mates such as Frankie Andreu and, in May 2011, Tyler Hamilton came forward and also said that illegal practices were used by Armstrong and others. Again, the Texan denied the claims.

Federal agents and other government representatives looked into the team, with speculation being that Armstrong and others faced a range of possible charges including fraud and trafficking.

In June 2010 the World Anti-Doping Agency's director general David Howman said that he believed the investigation would yield results, but warned it would take time. “I think we are very optimistic that this inquiry will be a fruitful one,” he told the New York Times then. “But this is going to take some time because we’re not really talking about a simple antidoping case here. Remember the BALCO case, how long that took? Well, we could be still talking about this one in 2016.”

After that point more agencies become involved, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Service’s Office of Inspector General, plus both the civil and criminal divisions of the Department of Justice.

Strain of the case:

At the time Armstrong insisted that he wasn’t wasting time thinking about the process, but he now reveals that it did indeed weigh heavily on him: ‘The most frustrating and confusing thing I’ve ever been through,” he said of the experience. “I was miserable – if people think I was an asshole before… There were days when you just damn near crash – personally and privately.

“I had days where I thought I was f*cked,” he said, then added, “but I always thought the right decision would be made.”

It was predicted by some that an indictment would follow, but instead on February 3rd of this year, United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. issued a statement saying that the case was dropped.

The news came as a surprise to many, not least some of those involved in the investigation itself. There were some reports that federal investigators had felt they had a strong case and were frustrated by Birotte’s ruling.

Armstrong said that he was told of the decision by his spokesman Mark Fabiani, who had previously worked alongside Bill Clinton. “’Lance, in five minutes the US Attorney is going to issue a press release saying that this investigation is closed, and it’s over forever’,” he recalls Fabiani as telling him.

“I’ve never felt anything like it,” he said of his response. “With cancer, there’s never that day where they go, ‘you’re out of the woods, you are done, you’re cured.’ This was different. When that call came in, it was the most amazing feeling in my life. It was out-of-body. So intense.”

When Eells suggested to him that his image has been damaged, despite the end of the federal investigation, Armstrong accepted this. “I’m sure it has been. But I’m OK with that. We all want to be loved, we all want to be respected, we all want to be thought of as fair and ethical and admirable men,” he said “But very few people are unimpeachable. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that there are always going to be questions.”

One of the bodies asking questions is the US Anti Doping Agency USADA, which issued a statement after Birotte dropped the case saying that it would continue digging.

“Unlike the U.S. Attorney, USADA’s job is to protect clean sport rather than enforce specific criminal laws,” said its CEO Travis T. Tygart on February 3rd. “Our investigation into doping in the sport of cycling is continuing and we look forward to obtaining the information developed during the federal investigation.”

What Eells said he found interesting is that after years and years of denials, that in the hours spent with Armstrong researching the article, that the rider didn’t once claim not to have doped.

“I’d never waste another minute trying to convince somebody I’m innocent,” said the Texan. “I think everybody’s made up their minds. Nobody’s on the fence about me anymore. It’s kind of refreshing. If someone says, ‘I think you F*** cheated, I go, ‘ok, great. Can we talk about something else? Because I really don’t give a shit what you think. I’m not going to waste any more time having that argument.”

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