Last month internationally recognised road cyclist, Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and disqualified from competition for life by the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA). USADA had laid charges against Armstrong for the possession, trafficking, use and distribution of performance enhancing drugs including EPO [erythropoietin], blood transfusions, testosterone, cortisone and HGH [human growth hormone] during the period between 1996-2005. According to an article in The Guardian the allegations against Armstrong were grounded in “overwhelming evidence” produced by “more than a dozen witnesses” including co-competitors who were “ready to testify against him.” On 23 August, Armstrong announced that after a two year battle he was dropping his legal challenge against these allegations due to the strain it had placed on his personal life and work with his cancer foundation. In a public statement quoted in the Telegraph Sport, Armstrong said: "There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say 'enough is enough.' For me, that time is now.”
The Telegraph Sport reported that Armstrong’s refusal to further contest the charges has been treated by USADA as an admission of guilt. A USADA representative told The Guardian that, "as a result of Mr Armstrong's decision, USADA is required under the applicable rules, including the World Anti-Doping Code under which he is accountable, to disqualify his competitive results and suspend him from all future competition." The New York Times reported that in addition to his record-breaking seven Tour de France titles, Armstrong will also lose his 2000 Olympic bronze medal, all other titles and money he won after August 1998, and his eligibility to ever hold any official role within cycling or any other sport covered by The Code.
According to the Telegraph Sport, the sport’s governing body, The International Cycling Union, has been contending USADA for jurisdiction over the Armstrong matter. The implication for the Union if it elects to enforce USADA’s decision is that it will be required to select new winners for the 1999-2005 Tours. The article described this process as a potential headache because “a number of cyclists who finished behind the American have also been implicated in doping scandals.”
Armstrong is renowned for winning the seven Tour de France titles after successfully battling life-threatening cancer. At one stage he was given a 40% chance of survival which, in risk management terms, are not great odds. He since established the Lance Armstrong Foundation and LIVESTRONG brand which have raised in excess of £400m to inspire and improve the lives of cancer sufferers. Armstrong’s brand and charity initiatives have been founded on the principle of thriving in the face of adversity. USADA’s stripping of Armstrong’s titles and branding him a ‘drug cheat’ effectively undermines this message. It remains to be seen whether the LIVESTRONG brand will be resilient enough to withstand the blow to Armstrong’s personal reputation.
The fact that Armstrong never tested ‘drug positive’ throughout his career also raises questions both of the legitimacy of the charges and the effectiveness of drug testing methods and technologies used in sport.