Lance Armstrong doping-fight dropout and disappearance from USA Pro Challenge
Amid news that Lance Armstrong will quit fighting doping allegations (a move that will likely result in him being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles), it's tough to remember that just two years ago, he was the face of what's now known as the USA Pro Challenge, a bicycle race currently thrilling fans statewide.
Armstrong and Ritter.
Then, he was a glamorous get for organizers of the event, with then-Governor Bill Ritter happily posing alongside him. Now, he's a sports pariah. How'd it happen?
Armstrong's fall has been a long time coming. Well over a decade ago, when he was still winning Tour de France accolades, a friend of mine who works at ESPN The Magazine told me he had sources who felt certain the Live Strong hero had been improperly enhancing his pedaling performances, and those whispers grew steadily louder as time went on. But in the months that followed the August 2010 team-up of Armstrong and Ritter at the State Capitol to announce what was originally dubbed the Quiznos Pro Challenge, they became impossible to ignore.
In April 2011, Bicycling editor and Tour de Lance author Bill Strickland joined the Armstrong-is-doping chorus. Then, in May, Boulder-based cyclist and accused doper Tyler Hamilton pointed his finger at Armstrong on 60 Minutes. Armstrong and Hamilton later got into a pissy altercation at an Aspen bar.
Bill Ritter speaking at the August 2010 Quiznos Pro Challenge announcement, with Armstrong in the background.
With all this going on, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge (name number two) announced in the spring of last year that Armstrong would have little or no involvement in the race, allegedly because he'd announced his retirement and organizers wanted to give him some space -- although it wasn't tough to read between those lines, especially when he played zero role in the inaugural contest.
Now, Armstrong has announced that he's decided to stop fighting charges brought against him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. He also maintains his innocence in a statement on view below in its entirety, but that will be a mighty tough sell.
Armstrong was the center of attention.
Meanwhile, the USA Pro Challenge appears to be a booming success in its second year, as evidenced by the recap of yesterday's events that follow Armstrong's words. From all indications, the race will live on over the long haul despite the ignominy that's been visited upon the man who officially co-founded it.
Continuing reading for Lance Armstrong's statement and a USA Pro Challenge update.