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Armstrong To Be Stripped Of Cycling Records

Aug 24, 2012
Originally published on August 24, 2012 11:56 am



And some other news on this eventful morning. Lance Armstrong says he is no longer fighting the doping case against him. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency says as a result the cyclist will be stripped of his seven titles on the Tour de France. NPR's Mike Pesca joined us to talk about it. Good morning.


INSKEEP: How did this happen? Did Armstrong effectively admit guilt here by saying he's not fighting the charges?

PESCA: He didn't literally, because it's an extrajudicial - or would've been an extrajudicial proceeding. But let's look at what he really did. There was a raft of charges against him. They were hinted at. It was going to be 10 of his former teammates or doctors or people associated with the team testifying against him. The U.S.A.D.A. also said that it had some blood tests that were, quote, "fully consistent with taking EPO," one of the banned substances. I'm not quite sure what fully consistent means.

But Armstrong did say after filing two lawsuits against it and after fighting this, really publicly, he did say that's it, we're not going forward. And he knows what that means. And what that means is he's no longer considered a Tour de France champion, let alone a seven time Tour de France champion. And he can't participate in cycling again, which he couldn't - he wasn't going to do anyway because he was 40. But there are some other repercussions.

So, yeah, in a de facto sense it does look like he's saying if I'm not going to fight it - what is he saying. Maybe it's like the equivalent of a no contest plea in court. But it does look like he's saying that these charges will stand.

INSKEEP: Any idea why he would stop fighting at this point after defying these charges and allegations and investigations, for years and years?

PESCA: Yeah. He was, I mean, he was a terrier. He was tenacious in fighting this. He went to great lengths to fight all the allegations against him. And he would put - in public, he would put his blood work on websites and he would hire very famous anti-doping experts to testify sort of that he'd been clean.

His explanation is, quote, "enough is enough." You know, he's just had enough of it. But I think if you look at all the charges you would say that there seems to be a lot of evidence. And very, very important, is that this fight would've taken place before a U.S.A.D.A. arbitration panel. And I think Armstrong knows the record. There are some like 58 and two - the U.S.A.D.A. is when they take cases to arbitration. They almost always win.

So even if Armstrong looked at Barry Bonds essentially beating the charges, and if he looked at Roger Clemens, the baseball player, beating the charges, those were in courts of law. He wouldn't have that same venue. Maybe he saw the writing on the wall.

INSKEEP: Is there any doubt here, Mike Pesca, that the judgment of a U.S. agency applies in France, that he actually loses his titles in France because of American investigators?

PESCA: No. He will, because the U.S.A.D.A. is associated with the world doping agency. And all the cycling events, including Olympic events, those fall under the aegis of those agencies. Also, the triathlon does. He's been participating in triathlons. He's 40, so he was probably never going to win or be the Iron Man and be a world champion, but he was getting paid something like a million dollars to just participate in these triathlons. That contract - a lot of his contracts - now are very much a question mark.

INSKEEP: So the record books - I just want to be clear on this. The record books will show that this man never won the Tour de France?

PESCA: Greg LeMond is the only American ever to have won the Tour de France, officially, at this point.

INSKEEP: So what is the legacy then of Lance Armstrong? What's left?

PESCA: I think that that question is very much governing everything that he has done in this case. And he didn't think he could win, but maybe by framing his I'm not going to fight anymore, I've done all that one man can do - maybe by doing that he's trying to preserve his legacy.

His Armstrong Foundation, the charity, I mean, they could lose so many donors. They have 95 employees. Whenever you Google all these health terms, LIVESTRONG, the Armstrong Foundation, comes up. And I think that's, you know, again, again a question mark, but I think the legacy of that organization is very much in question. We don't know where it's going to go. He was one of the most recognized. His Q rating was through the roof. And that's all - that all could come crumbling down now.

INSKEEP: Oh, the Q rating, that's a TV term, isn't it? Like people get excited when the name is mentioned or the person comes on the screen. He was a big name.

PESCA: His name was instantly recognizable. In recent years, it had been turning more negative than positive. But I was just reading a 2004 article that the editor of Esquire said, he's a transcendent figure in our culture. He is no longer that now.

INSKEEP: NPR's Mike Pesca on Lance Armstrong announcing that he will no longer fight doping charges.

Mike, thanks very much.

PESCA: You're welcome, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.