If you’re still wearing a Livestrong bracelet, prepare to get into some awkward conversations tomorrow. Lance Armstrong announced on Thursday that after years of battling charges that he used performance-enhancing drugs, he’s dropping his fight against the United States Anti-Doping Agency. The move means that he’ll be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, which along with his dramatic story of beating testicular cancer made him a household name and increased cycling’s popularity in the U.S.“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough,’” Armstrong explained in a statement. “The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today — finished with this nonsense.”
The USADA claims it has proof that Armstrong used illegal substances to enhance his performance, including steroids, EPO, and blood transfusions, as far back as 1996. Armstrong says he’s passed hundreds of drug tests throughout his career and maintains his innocence. According to the Associated Press, he says he won’t enter the USADA’s arbitration process, which is his last chance to contest the organization’s charges, because the process is unfair. Armstrong sued the USADA in an attempt to get the case dropped, but his suit was thrown out on Monday.
The USADA ignored Armstrong’s insistence that this isn’t an admission of guilt, and Travis Tygart, the agency’s chief executive, called his case a “heartbreaking example of win at all costs overtaking the fair and safe option.” The New York Times reports that Armstrong will be stripped of the bronze medal he won at the 2000 Olympics and every other title and prize that he’s won since August 1998. Tygart also said that Armstrong, who is retired, will be banned from the sport for life on Friday.
Armstrong hasn’t given up entirely. According to USA Today, his lawyers are threatening to sue the USADA for punishing him, and Armstrong argues that the agency doesn’t have any authority over a “professional international sport” and thus can’t take his Tour de France titles. “I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours,” he said. Whether Armstrong took part in an elaborate doping scheme or was merely the victim of what he calls an “unconstitutional witch hunt,” Tygart is right about one thing: It’s a “sad day for all of us who love sport and our athletic heroes.”