Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong faces being stripped of his titles and banned from cycling for life after announcing he will not contest charges levelled by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
American Armstrong said in a statement that he is “finished with this nonsense” and insisted he is innocent but did not want to spend any further effort clearing his name.
He said: “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.”
However Armstrong’s achievements are set to be wiped from the record books.
Asked what actions USADA intended to impose, spokeswoman Annie Skinner said in an email: “A loss of all results from August 1, 1998 and a lifetime ban from participating any sport sanctioned by a signatory to the WADA Code.”
Armstrong, 40, has always denied claims he ever used performance-enhancing drugs during his career and has never failed a test.
But USADA chief executive Travis T. Tygart has said the Texan should face the same proceedings as any other athlete charged with doping offences.
Armstrong, charged by USADA in June, sought a temporary restraining order against the agency’s legal action but that was dismissed in a federal court in Austin, Texas on Monday.
His former team-mates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton have both accused Armstrong of doping. Both Landis and Hamilton have also been punished for doping.
Armstrong, who in 2011 retired from cycling for a second time, is the most successful rider in the history of the Tour de France, winning each year from 1999 to 2005.
His story was made all the more remarkable by the fact his triumphs came after beating cancer.
Armstrong claims the USADA investigation “has not been about learning the truth or cleaning up cycling, but about punishing me at all costs”.
“Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart’s unconstitutional witch hunt,” he 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.”
He added: “Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances.”
He accused USADA of having “broken the law” and “played the role of a bully” and insisted he always “played by the rules” put in place by anti-doping agencies and cycling’s world governing body the UCI.
He added in a statement on his personal website: “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-team-mate 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, in a passionate defence of his career record, said USADA had no right to take away his Tour titles.
“USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles,” he said.
“I know who won those seven Tours, my team-mates 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.”
Responding to Armstrong’s statement, Tygart said: “It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and our athletic heroes.”
While Armstrong remains steadfast that he did not cheat, Tygart sees the case in a different light.
Tygart added in a statement released by USADA: “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.”
Armstrong called USADA’s actions a “charade” and the allegations against him “outlandish and heinous”.
He said: “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 colours. 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?”