Armstrong won't fight USADA charges, will lose Tour titles


Armstrong won't fight USADA charges, will lose Tour titles

Lance Armstrong's statement released Thursday night

USADA to strip Armstrong of Tour titles, ban for life

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Lance Armstrong said Thursday night he is finished fighting a barrage of drug charges from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, putting his unprecedented string of seven Tour de France titles at risk along with his legacy as one of the greatest cyclists in history.

The decision sets up a likely lifetime ban from the sport and the possibility that Armstrong will be stripped of his signature achievement -- the extraordinary run of Tour titles he won from 1999-2005.

Armstrong, who retired last year, declined to enter arbitration -- his last option -- because he said he was weary of fighting accusations that have dogged him for years. He has consistently pointed to the hundreds of drug tests that he has passed as proof of his innocence.

"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 in a statement sent to The Associated Press. He called the USADA investigation an "unconstitutional witch hunt."

"I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999," 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."

USADA will almost certainly treat Armstrong's decision as an admission of guilt, and hang the label of drug cheat on an athlete who was a hero to thousands for overcoming life-threatening testicular cancer and for his foundation's support for cancer research.

The agency can impose a lifetime ban and recommend Armstrong be stripped of his titles. That would put the question in the hands of the International Cycling Union, which has disputed USADA's authority to pursue the investigation and Tour de France officials, who have had a prickly relationship with Armstrong over the years.

Armstrong insisted his decision is not an admission of drug use, but a refusal to enter an arbitration process he believes is improper and unfair to athletes facing charges.

"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 teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours."

USADA maintains that Armstrong has used banned substances as far back as 1996, including the blood-booster EPO and steroids as well as blood transfusions -- all to boost his performance.

The 40-year-old Armstrong walked away from the sport in 2011 without being charged following a two-year federal criminal investigation into many of the same accusations he faces from USADA. The federal probe was closed in February, but USADA announced in June it had evidence Armstrong used banned substances and methods -- and encouraged their use by teammates. The agency also said it had blood tests from 2009 and 2010 that were "fully consistent" with blood doping.

Included in USADA's evidence were emails written by Armstrong's former U.S. Postal Service teammate Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title after a positive drug test. Landis' emails to a USA Cycling official detailed allegations of a complex doping program on the team.

USADA also said it had 10 former Armstrong teammates ready to testify against him. Other than suggesting they include Landis and Tyler Hamilton, both of whom have admitted to doping offenses, the agency has refused to say who they are or specifically what they would say.

"There is zero physical evidence to support (the) outlandish and heinous claims. The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of (doping) controls I have passed with flying colors," Armstrong said.

Armstrong sued USADA in Austin, where he lives, in an attempt to block the case and was supported by the UCI, the sport's governing body. A judge threw out the case on Monday, siding with USADA despite questioning the agency's pursuit of Armstrong in his retirement.

"USADA's conduct raises serious questions about whether its real interest in charging Armstrong is to combat doping, or if it is acting according to less noble motives," such as politics or publicity, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks wrote.

Now the ultra-competitive Armstrong has done something virtually unthinkable for him: He has quit before a fight is over.

"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," Armstrong said.

Armstrong could have pressed his innocence in USADA's arbitration process, but the cyclist has said he believes most people have already made up their minds about whether he's a fraud or a persecuted hero.

It's a stunning move for an athlete who built his reputation on not only beating cancer, but forcing himself through grueling offseason workouts no one else could match, then crushing his rivals in the Alps and the Pyrenees.

Although he had already been crowned a world champion and won individual stages at the Tour de France, Armstrong was still relatively unknown in the U.S. until he won the epic race for the first time in 1999. It was the ultimate comeback tale: When diagnosed with cancer, doctors had given him less than a 50 percent chance of survival before surgery and brutal cycles of chemotherapy saved his life.

Armstrong's riveting victories, his work for cancer awareness and his gossip-page romances with rocker Sheryl Crow, fashion designer Tory Burch and actress Kate Hudson made him a figure who transcended sports.

His dominance of the Tour de France elevated the sport's popularity in America to unprecedented levels. His story and success helped sell millions of the "Livestrong" plastic yellow wrist bracelets, and enabled him to enlist lawmakers and global policymakers to promote cancer awareness and research. His Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised nearly 500 million since its founding in 1997.

Created in 2000, USADA is recognized by Congress as the official anti-doping agency for Olympic sports in the United States. Its investigators joined U.S. agents during the federal probe, and USADA chief executive Travis Tygart had dismissed Armstrong's lawsuit as an attempt at "concealing the truth." He said the agency is motivated by one goal -- exposing cheaters in sport.

Others close to Armstrong were caught up in the charges: Johan Bruyneel, the coach of Armstrong's teams, and three members of the medical staff and a consultant were also charged. Bruyneel is taking his case to arbitration, while two medical team staffers and consulting doctor Michele Ferrari didn't formally contest the charges and were issued lifetime ban by USADA. Ferrari later said he was innocent.

In a sport rife with cheaters, Armstrong has been under constant suspicion since the 1990s from those who refused to believe he was a clean rider winning cycling's premier event against a field of doped-up competition.

He had tense public disputes with USADA, the World Anti-Doping Agency, some former teammates and assistants and even Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour de France.

Through it all, Armstrong vigorously denied any and all hints, rumors and direct accusations he was cheating. He had the blazing personality, celebrity and personal wealth needed to fight back with legal and public relations battles to clear his name -- and he did, time after time.

Armstrong won his first Tour at a time when doping scandals had rocked the race. He was leading the race when a trace amount of a banned anti-inflammatory corticosteroid was found in his urine; cycling officials said he was authorized to use a small amount of a cream to treat saddle sores.

After Armstrong's second victory in 2000, French judicial officials investigated his Postal Service team for drug use. That investigation ended with no charges, but the allegations kept coming.

Armstrong was criticized for his relationship with Ferrari, who was banned by Italian authorities over doping charges in 2002. Former personal and team assistants accused Armstrong of having steroids in an apartment in Spain and disposing of syringes that were used for injections.

In 2004, a Dallas-based promotions company initially refused to pay him a 5 million bonus for winning his sixth Tour de France because it wanted to investigate allegations raised by media in Europe. Testimony in that case included former teammate Frankie Andreu and his wife, Betsy, saying Armstrong told doctors during his 1996 cancer treatments that he had taken a cornucopia of steroids and performance-enhancing drugs.

Two books published in Europe, "L.A. Confidential" and "L.A. Official," also raised doping allegations and, in 2005, French magazine L'Equipe reported that retested urine samples from the 1999 Tour showed EPO use.

Armstrong fought every accusation with denials and, in some cases, lawsuits against the European media outlets that reported them.

But he showed signs that he was tiring of the never-ending questions. Armstrong retired (for the first time) in 2005 and almost immediately considered a comeback before deciding to stay on the sidelines, in part, because he didn't want to keep answering doping questions.

"I'm sick of this," Armstrong said in 2005. "Sitting here today, dealing with all this stuff again, knowing if I were to go back, there's no way I could get a fair shake -- on the roadside, in doping control, or the labs."

But three years later, Armstrong was 36 and itching to ride again. He came back to finish third in the 2009 Tour de France.

Armstrong raced in the Tour again in 2010, under the cloud of the federal criminal investigation. Early last year, he quit the sport for good, but made a brief return as a triathlete until the USADA investigation shut him down.

During his sworn testimony in the dispute over the 5 million bonus, Armstrong said he wouldn't take performance enhancing drugs because he had too much to lose.

"(The) faith of all the cancer survivors around the world. Everything I do off the bike would go away, too," Armstrong said then. "And don't think for a second I don't understand that. It's not about money for me. Everything. It's also about the faith that people have put in me over the years. So all of that would be erased."

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What are Bradley Beal's chances of earning All-NBA?

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What are Bradley Beal's chances of earning All-NBA?

Bradley Beal has been indispensable for the Wizards this season with John Wall having missed 33 of their 70 games, or nearly half of their schedule so far. Beal's numbers are up in several categories from last season and he earned his first All-Star selection as a result.

Becoming an NBA All-Star is very difficult. Usually, about six guards per conference are picked each year. Being All-NBA is even more exclusive, as only six guards are selected from the entire league.

Wall has done it before and Beal may be in position to accomplish the feat himself this season. As of now, Beal could be considered on the bubble for third-team All-NBA.


It is an extremely competitive race and there are several locks to earn the honors. At this point, guys like James Harden and Russell Westbrook should get in easily. But after that, the next four spots are hard to sort out.

Based on his numbers, Damian Lillard of the Blazers should be a shoe-in. He is the best player on the third-place team in the Western Conference and is second among all NBA guards in points per game (26.6). He is also averaging 6.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds. He has already been All-NBA twice in his career and should get his third nod after this season.

DeMar DeRozan of the Raptors is probably the next-most likely to get in. He has led the top team in the Eastern Conference, was an All-Star starter in February and got his first All-NBA selection last year.

After those is where it gets interesting. The reason why is injuries. Stephen Curry in any other year would be a guarantee for All-NBA, but as of now he has played just 50 games. Consider that the NBA requires a player to appear in 58 games or more, or 70 percent of his team's games, to qualify for statistical leaderboards. 


Curry has returned to practice, but due to health and possibly rest down the stretch of the season, there is a chance he doesn't hit the 58-game threshold. That may present an interesting question for the voters.

Kyrie Irving of the Celtics is also hurt. He has played in 60 games with 11 left on Boston's schedule. The same goes for Jimmy Butler of the Timberwolves. He is rehabbing a torn meniscus and currently has only played 56 games. 

Chris Paul of the Rockets has appeared in 53 games due to injuries. Though his numbers could put him in the All-NBA conversation, Devin Booker of the Suns has played in just 54 games.

If injuries do preclude Curry in particular from getting in, then the door could be open the door for Beal. He would then have to beat out guys like Victor Oladipo of the Pacers, Irving, Butler and others.

Setting aside the most likely three to get All-NBA - Harden, Westbrook and Lillard - and Curry, let's take a look at how Beal stacks up statistically to the rest of the pack. 

Bradley Beal - 23.3 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.2 spg, 46.3 FG%, 37.4 3PT%

DeMar DeRozan - 23.7 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.0 rpg, 1.1 spg, 46.1 FG%, 32.4 3PT%

Victor Oladipo - 23.3 ppg, 4.2 apg, 5.2 rpg, 2.3 spg, 47.1 FG%, 36.6 3PT%

Kyrie Irving - 24.4 ppg, 5.1 apg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 spg, 49.1 FG%, 40.8 3PT%

Jimmy Butler - 22.2 ppg, 5.0 apg, 5.4 rpg, 1.9 spg, 47.3 FG%, 35.6 3PT%

Devin Booker - 24.9 ppg, 4.7 apg, 4.5 rpg, 0.9 spg, 43.2 FG%, 38.3 3PT%

Chris Paul - 18.8 ppg, 7.9 apg, 5.6 rpg, 1.7 spg, 45.9 FG%, 38.5 3PT%


As you see, not a whole lot is separating those guys. It may come down to team performance and other factors.

Working in Beal's favor is that he's been the most durable of the bunch. He has played in every one of the Wizards' games this season.

Beal has also helped keep his team in contention despite Wall's absence. The Wizards are on pace for 47 wins, not far off their 49 victories last year, and Beal has been the biggest reason.

But Irving's case is helped similarly by all the injuries in Boston, including to Gordan Hayward. He has been the best player on the second-best team in the Eastern Conference.

Oladipo has led the Pacers to an impressive season despite not having another All-Star in the lineup. DeRozan, Beal, Irving and Butler have better supporting casts.


Say injuries do work against Curry, Paul, Irving and Booker. And assume DeRozan is safely in as the fourth guy behind Harden, Westbrook and Lillard. That could mean Beal gets in alongside Oladipo.

If Curry, Paul or Irving get in despite missing double-digit games, that would probably bump Beal out of the mix. Oladipo has slightly better numbers and has drawn lots of acclaim for being the best player on a surprise Pacers team and he's no guarantee himself.

Beal has 12 games left to prove his case and clearly a lot of factors are in play, but the idea of him making All-NBA for the first time is not out of the question.

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Redskins Draft Countdown: Could Da'Ron Payne be the final piece to the D-line puzzle?

Redskins Draft Countdown: Could Da'Ron Payne be the final piece to the D-line puzzle?

Redskins draft countdown

Da’Ron Payne

Defensive tackle

Stuff the run in the middle of the line? Check. Get outside to stop stretch plays? Check. Get after the passer? Check. Yes, Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne checks all the boxes the Redskins are looking for on the D-line.

He can be the immovable object, taking on double and triple teams, and he also can chase down the quarterback. At 311 pounds he could be the Redskins’ nose tackle in base and move outside in nickel.

Height: 6-2
Weight: 311
40-yard dash: 4.95

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Payne possesses one of the most impressive combinations of strength and athleticism that we've seen from an interior lineman. He will be the premier run-stuffer in this draft, but he may have enough in the pass rushing toolbox to project as a better pro than college pass rusher. Payne is a game-ready starter who immediately upgrades a defense's ability to slow the run.

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

How he fits the Redskins: This just in—the Redskins need a nose tackle. Of course, if you’re reading this you know that, and you’ve known it has been the case ever since the Redskins went to the 3-4 defense in 2010.

In very closely related news, they need to play better against the run, too. You probably noticed that they were dead last in the league in rushing defense last year. And that the NFC East has two very strong rushing teams in the Eagles and Cowboys and a Giants team that could well take Saquon Barkley with the second pick in the draft. If they don’t fix their rushing defense they could literally get run over.

Payne could help them a lot. He can take on double and triple teams and clog up running lanes in the middle. If they try to go around him, he has the quickness to penetrate and disrupt outside runs.

And a defensive lineman taken in the top half of the first round should be able to provide some pass rush pressure. As noted by Zierlein, Payne has the potential to do that. He’ll never be a double-digit sack guy, but if he can kick in four to six per year and get some pressure up the middle, that would be fine.

Film review: vs. Tennessee, vs Georgia (national title game)

Like most players, Payne can’t get much in the way of a pass rush when he is double and triple teamed. But when they tried to block him one on one he consistently got pressure. Payne didn’t get many sacks, but he did make a difference. Against Georgia, one pressure resulted in an interception and another forced a third-down incompletion.

Payne is very difficult to move off the spot in the running game, even when the offense tries to do it with two or even three players. Running backs did not get by him on a regular basis. In the second half in particular, Georgia tried to move the ball with Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, both of whom are likely to get selected in the top 100 in the draft next month. But they kept running into a mass of humanity in the middle of the line with Payne in the middle of it.

He played well during the Tennessee game during the regular season, but he didn’t have a lot of impact. The only time his name was called was when he was hit with a roughing the passer call.

Potential issues: At 311 pounds, Payne may not be the ideal size to fill the chronic hole at nose tackle. It should be noted, however, that defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has said that the Redskins aren’t necessarily looking for the 350-pound nose tackle and that a relatively smaller player can get the job done. Ziggy Hood played the nose at 305 pounds last year. The Redskins finished last against the run, although that’s not necessarily cause and effect.

Bottom line: The Redskins went 20 years without taking an interior defensive lineman in the first round before taking Jonathan Allen last year. Nobody could legitimately complain if they doubled up on first-round D-linemen after so many years of neglect.

Payne should be there when the 13th pick goes on the clock. Unless the Redskins address the nose tackle spot in free agency Payne will be under strong consideration. The defensive line improved last year with the additions of Allen in the draft, Stacy McGee as a free agent and the second-year emergence of Matt Ioannidis. Payne could be the final piece of what could be a dominant defensive line.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.