Austin - Lance Armstrong will be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, the US Anti-Doping Agency said on Thursday, after the cycling icon announced he would no longer fight the drug charges that have clouded his legacy.
USADA said Armstrong will be barred from cycling for life for using performance-enhancing drugs to win cycling's most prestigious race from 1999-2005, charges that Armstrong has vehemently denied.
Armstrong, while maintaining his innocence, announced his decision after a US federal court dismissed his lawsuit against USADA on Monday, paving the way for the agency to continue its case against him.
USADA said in June it had evidence that Armstrong used banned substances, including information supplied by former teammates.
Armstrong accused USADA of launching an "unconstitutional witch hunt" against him as he declined to pursue procedures that could take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
"Today I turn the page," Armstrong said in a statement on his website.
"I will no longer address the issue, regardless of the circumstances. I will commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a single Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in underserved communities."
The 40-year-old said he was growing weary of the fight and the strain it had put on his personal and professional life.
"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say 'enough is enough.' For me, that time is now," Armstrong said.
"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."
USADA chief Travis Tygart told AFP that Armstrong would be stripped of all his results dating back to August 1, 1998.
In a separate written statement, Tygart called the move a "sad day" for the sporting world and said the "win-at-all-costs culture of sport" needs to change.
He also expressed hope that future crackdowns on athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs would create a "level playing field".
"It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and our athletic heroes," the USADA chief said.
"This is a heartbreaking example of how the win-at-all-costs culture of sport, if left unchecked, will overtake fair, safe and honest competition, but for clean athletes, it is a reassuring reminder that there is hope for future generations to compete on a level playing field without the use of performance-enhancing drugs."
Tygart said Armstrong didn't officially notify the agency that he was dropping the fight. He said USADA planned to hold a news conference on Friday to provide more details on the decision.
USADA says Armstrong used banned substances, including the blood-booster EPO and steroids, as well as blood transfusions dating back to 1996.
Armstrong, who retired from cycling last year, sued in federal court to try to halt USADA's proceedings, but the case was dismissed. Armstrong argued that USADA was usurping the jurisdiction that should belong to world cycling's governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI).
Armstrong said he has passed hundreds of drug tests during his career and that he adhered to the rules that were in place at the time of his Tour de France wins.
"The bottom line is I played by the rules that were put in place by the UCI, WADA and USADA when I raced," Armstrong wrote.
"The idea that athletes can be convicted today without positive A and B samples, under the same rules and procedures that apply to athletes with positive tests, perverts the system and creates a process where any begrudged ex-teammate can open a USADA case out of spite or for personal gain or a cheating cyclist can cut a sweetheart deal for themselves.
"It's an unfair approach, applied selectively, in opposition to all the rules. It's just not right."
Armstrong said USADA has used heavy-handed tactics to pursue him and even broke the law.
The agency "turned its back on its own rules, and stiff-armed those who have tried to persuade USADA to honour its obligations," he said.
"I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair.
"From the beginning, this investigation has not been about learning the truth or cleaning up cycling, but about punishing me at all costs."
Chronology of Lance Armstrong's career and the doping accusations that have the US cycling icon facing a lifetime ban and loss of his seven Tour de France titles:
1992: After competing in the Barcelona Olympics, Armstrong turns professional. Finishes last in his first pro race, the Clasica de San Sebastian.
1993: Wins the world championship, the USPRO championship and a stage in his first Tour de France.
1996: Enters the year as the top-ranked cyclist in the world. In October, he undergoes surgery and chemotherapy to treat testicular cancer that has spread to his lungs and brain.
1997: Announces formation of a charitable foundation to benefit cancer research and resumes training.
1998: Returns to racing, wins Tour de Luxembourg, the Rheinland-Pfalz Rundfahrt in Germany and the Cascade Classic in Oregon.
1999: Wins first Tour de France title riding for US Postal Service team. Becomes just second American to win the Tour.
2000: Wins second Tour de France title. Publishes "It's Not About the Bike" about his return from cancer.
2001: Wins third Tour de France title.
2002: Wins fourth Tour de France title.
2003: Wins fifth Tour de France title.
2004: Weeks before the start of the Tour, Armstrong is accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs in a book written by David Walsh and Pierre Ballester. Wins sixth Tour de France title.
2005: Announces in April he will retire from pro cycling after the Tour. Wins seventh Tour de France title.
In August, French sports newspaper L'Equipe reports tests on six urine samples allegedly taken from Armstrong during the 1999 Tour and frozen were positive for blood-boosting erythropoietin (EPO). Armstrong maintains he has never taken performance-enhancing drugs.
2006: Armstrong is cleared of doping allegations that stemmed from a 1999 drug test. Report states re-testing didn't meet scientific standards. In July, Floyd Landis wins the Tour but is stripped of his title after failing a drug test.
2007: Lance Armstrong Foundation marks its 10th anniversary and pays out $7.5 million in grants.
2008: On September 9, Armstrong announces his intention to return to professional cycling.
2009: On March 23, Armstrong crashes in the first stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y León in Spain and breaks his collarbone. He resumes training four days after surgery. In April, the AFLD, France's anti-doping agency, accuses Armstrong of failing to cooperate fully with a drug tester. He denies the accusation. Armstrong finishes third in the Tour de France.
2010: In May, Landis admits he was using performance-enhancing drugs when he rode on the US Postal Service team and accused team members, including Armstrong, of also using performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong denies the allegations.
In September, Betsy Andreu, wife of former Armstrong team-mate Frankie Andreu, said she spoke to a federal agent investigating Armstrong and other cyclists. Betsy Andreu has claimed that Armstrong admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs in a hospital room in 1996 while battling cancer. Armstrong denies the allegation.
2011: In January, a Sports Illustrated magazine article quotes Armstrong's 1995 teammate Stephen Swart as saying Armstrong was "the instigator" for some team members to use EPO. Armstrong's lawyer says the allegation is false.
After competing in Australia's Tour Down Under, Armstrong announces his retirement from competitive cycling in February.
In May, former team-mate Tyler Hamilton tells CBS News that he and Armstrong had taken EPO together during the 1999, 2000 and 2001 Tours de France.
2012: In February, US federal prosecutors drop a criminal investigation into Armstrong and other cyclists without bringing charges.
On June 29, the US Anti-Doping Agency officially charges Armstrong with doping and trafficking of drugs, and suspends him from competing.
In July, Armstrong files a lawsuit in federal court in Texas against the USADA, but a judge threw it out the same day. One day later, Armstrong refiles the lawsuit.
On August 20, a federal judge dismisses Armstrong's lawsuit, leaving him three days to decide if he would fight USADA's charges through arbitration.
On August 23, Armstrong says he won't take his case to arbitration. USADA chief Travis Tygart says Armstrong will be stripped of all of his results dating back to August 1, 1998 and banned from cycling for life.
Factfile on Lance Armstrong:
Date of birth: September 18, 1971
Place of birth: Dallas (Texas)
Height: 1.77 m
Weight: 72 kg
Tour de France 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005
Tour of Switzerland (2001), Dauphine Libere (2002, 2003)
Tour of Luxembourg (1998), Midi Libre (2002)
Tour de France: 11 participations, 7 wins, 22 individual stage wins
World championship road race crown 1993
United States road race crown 1993
Clasica San Sebastian 1995, Fleche Wallonne 1996
Motorola (August 1992 - 1996)
US Postal (1998 - 2004)
Discovery Channel (2005)
Lance Armstrong's official statement after the USADA's decision to ban him for life and strip him of his seven Tour de France titles:
Austin - There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, "Enough is enough." For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart's unconstitutional witch hunt. 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.
I had hoped that a federal court would stop USADA’s charade. Although the court was sympathetic to my concerns and recognized the many improprieties and deficiencies in USADA’s motives, its conduct, and its process, the court ultimately decided that it could not intervene.
If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA’s process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and – once and for all – put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance. But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair. Regardless of what Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims. The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of controls I have passed with flying colors. I made myself available around the clock and around the world. In-competition. Out of competition. Blood. Urine. Whatever they asked for I provided. What is the point of all this testing if, in the end, USADA will not stand by it?
From the beginning, however, this investigation has not been about learning the truth or cleaning up cycling, but about punishing me at all costs. I am a retired cyclist, yet USADA has lodged charges over 17 years old despite its own 8-year limitation. As respected organizations such as UCI and USA Cycling have made clear, USADA lacks jurisdiction even to bring these charges. The international bodies governing cycling have ordered USADA to stop, have given notice that no one should participate in USADA’s improper proceedings, and have made it clear the pronouncements by USADA that it has banned people for life or stripped them of their accomplishments are made without authority. And as many others, including USADA’s own arbitrators, have found, there is nothing even remotely fair about its process. USADA has broken the law, turned its back on its own rules, and stiff-armed those who have tried to persuade USADA to honor its obligations. At every turn, USADA has played the role of a bully, threatening everyone in its way and challenging the good faith of anyone who questions its motives or its methods, all at U.S. taxpayers’ expense. For the last two months, USADA has endlessly repeated the mantra that there should be a single set of rules, applicable to all, but they have arrogantly refused to practice what they preach. On top of all that, USADA has allegedly made deals with other riders that circumvent their own rules as long as they said I cheated. Many of those riders continue to race today.
The bottom line is I played by the rules that were put in place by the UCI, WADA and USADA when I raced. The idea that athletes can be convicted today without positive A and B samples, under the same rules and procedures that apply to athletes with positive tests, perverts the system and creates a process where any begrudged ex-teammate can open a USADA case out of spite or for personal gain or a cheating cyclist can cut a sweetheart deal for themselves. It’s an unfair approach, applied selectively, in opposition to all the rules. It’s just not right.
USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven 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. We all raced together. For three weeks over the same roads, the same mountains, and against all the weather and elements that we had to confront. There were no shortcuts, there was no special treatment. The same courses, the same rules. The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that. Especially not Travis Tygart.
Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances. I will commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a single Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in underserved communities. This October, my Foundation will celebrate 15 years of service to cancer survivors and the milestone of raising nearly $500 million. We have a lot of work to do and I'm looking forward to an end to this pointless distraction. I have a responsibility to all those who have stepped forward to devote their time and energy to the cancer cause. I will not stop fighting for that mission. Going forward, I am going to devote myself to raising my five beautiful (and energetic) kids, fighting cancer, and attempting to be the fittest 40-year old on the planet.