The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency may view Lance Armstrong’s decision to walk away from its investigation as an admission of guilt, but the cycling legend said he sees it an opportunity to simply focus on what matters to him most – fighting for cancer patients in need.
By declining to pursue arbitration in the USADA’s probe into his using of performance-enhancing drugs, the famed seven-time Tour de France winner has risked losing his titles and incurring a lifetime cycling ban, the Associated Press reports. While the agency sees Armstrong’s actions as proof that he’s a cheater, the cancer survivor says it’s his way of putting an end to an “unconstitutional witch hunt” and getting on with his activism work.
“We have a lot of work to do and I’m looking forward to an end to this pointless distraction,” Armstrong said in a statement about his foundation that has raised nearly $500 million. “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.”
Armstrong, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1995 and given a 40 percent chance to live, went on to win his first of seven Tour de France competitions four years later. But, soon after his triumphant victory, and the launching of his foundation, the biking superstar was saddled with allegations that performance-enhancing drugs must have played a key role helping him dominate the sport.
After a two-year federal investigation into Armstrong’s drug use was closed in June, the USADA announced in June that is had evidence of the athlete’s using of banned substances and methods, according to the AP. Despite his insistence that he never abused drugs, the accused cyclist said it’s his time to walk away from the probe.
“I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair,” Armstrong said in a statement Thursday.
Still, even in this mournful moment of his athletic career, Armstrong says he has ample reason to celebrate. October will mark 15 years of the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s commitment to research, serving cancer patients and inching even closer to the $500 million fundraising mark.
“Today I turn the page,” Armstrong said in a statement Thursday. “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.”
While Armstrong is determined to push his foundation forward, he may face backlash from donors in response to the doping scandal.
“I think it could potentially be extremely damaging [to] the contributions to his foundation,” Sandra Miniutti, of the nonprofit watchdog site Charity Navigator, told Marketplace.org in June when the agency first filed the charges. “That said, he does have a lot of adoring fans so I think only time will tell if contributions dip after this latest allegation.”
While it remains to be seen how his donors will react, the staff at his organization have already declared their unfaltering support.
“Lance has unfailingly stood by the cancer community and we will always stand by him,” Vice Chairman and Founding Chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation Jeffery C. Garvey said in a statement. “The leadership of the Lance Armstrong Foundation remain incredibly proud of our founder’s achievements, both on and off the bike.”