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Steinberg: Lance Armstrong ends battle

August 25, 2012|By Leigh Steinberg

Cycling legend Lance Armstrong made a decision this week not to contest the United States Anti-Doping Agency charges that he employed blood doping to give him an unfair competitive advantage over the course of his racing career. It is the equivalent of a plea of nolo contendere in a criminal trial.

He is walking away from the ability to contest the charges and clear his name. His career should not end this way. Armstrong has been a fighter in so many ways. And, now in many eyes, he is tainted.

The USADA banned him from competitive cycling for life and stripped him of his seven Tour de France victories. This will mean that from the 1996 Tour title won by Bjarne Riis of Denmark, who admitted several years ago to his own extensive doping, through the 2010 race result forfeited by Spain's Alberto Contador over his positive test for clenbuterol, cycling has experienced a 15-year span in which all but one champion (Spain's Carlos Sastre in 2008) has been formally discredited in some way, even if some of the championships remain in place, according to an ESPN report.

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Cycling has experienced the same trauma that afflicted Major League Baseball in which all results end up in question. The sport is tarnished by the "cheating" stigma. Why would Armstrong, who has been combative and zealous over the years in challenging any accusations of unfair play simply walk away without a fight?

His statement in doing so was strident and he portrayed himself as a victim of a vendetta from USADA CEO Travis Tygart. But Armstrong had the resources to hire a first-rate legal team and spokesman Mark Fabiani. He was one of the few athletes with the power to take on a regulatory battle. His legal team filed a lawsuit in federal court that was rejected by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks because of the length and side issues it raised. When his attorneys resubmitted the suit it was dismissed. And he chose not to continue the battle in arbitration.

Armstrong has been as powerful a role model that sports has ever seen. He fought a long battle with testicular cancer, recovered and went on to set records for his performance in the equivalent of the Super Bowl for the sport – the Tour de France.

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