Some supporters of Lance Armstrong – stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from cycling for life after he dropped his fight against doping allegations – say they think charges that the 40-year-old cancer survivor may have been more vindictive than regulatory. Patrick Healy reports from Brentwood for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Aug. 24, 2012.
Lance Armstrong's decision not to fight the case brought by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has disappointed many of his boosters, even as questions remain about the agency's authority to unilaterally strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and an Olympic bronze medal.
A decade after the doping allegation was first raised, seven years after Armstrong's last Tour de France victory, and a year after his final pro race, many see the prolonged pursuit of him less regulatory than vindictive.
"It's beating a dead horse. Come on. Let it go," said personal trainer Sean Berro.
Like most cycling buffs, Berro knows the reality of the pervasive doping in the pro cycling world in which Armstrong excelled.
Before Armstrong took seven straight Tours de France, the three previous winners were all caught up in allegations of using illegal performance enhancers, as have two since. Many of the riders Armstrong bested in his tour victories were themselves later caught in doping violations.
"I think he's earned every victory he had," said Jim Ochoa, a veteran manager of cycling teams.
For years, Armstrong had been able to deflect doping accusations. This past February, the US
Attorney in Los Angeles dropped a grand jury investigation.
But earlier this summer, the USADA brought a case. Armstrong sought to have it quashed by a federal district court in Austin, Texas. On Monday, Judge Sam Sparks ruled against Armstrong. On Thursday, Armstrong issued a statement that he would not defend himself against the USADA case.
"If he was innocent, he would've stated as much by rebutting the evidence," said John Fahey, President of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Citing Armstrong's decision, USADA announced it is suspending Armstrong for life, and retroactively stripping him of all results dating back to 1998, a year before his first Tour de France victory.
The action has yet to be accepted by the International Cycling Union, and has left a bad taste among many in the cycling world.
"Lance Armstrong to be stripped of seven yellow jerseys. What a break for those guys who finished second who were also doping," reads a tweet by Sid Seixeiro.
"There seem to be a lot of personal issues that have come into this with the way they're going about it," said Thomas FitzGibbon, a Santa Monica attorney and cyclist who has followed the Armstrong case.
The International Cycling Union, which oversees pro cycling and goes by the initials UCI, challenged the jurisdiction of the US Anti-Doping Agency in the Texas case filed by Armstrong.
Friday, the UCI issued a statement calling on the USADA to submit "a reasoned decision explaining the action taken," and concluding it will have no further comment till then.
What had made Armstrong's domination of cycling's premier event, the Tour de France, all the more impressive was the fact it came after his battle with testicular cancer that metastasized and nearly took his life. Recovery took years.
Off the bike, promoting health and anti-cancer programs became a crusade for Armstrong, who created a foundation and launched LIVESTRONG, with its distinctive soft plastic yellow bracelets worn by millions.
Will fundraising for Armstrong's causes be hurt?
"We might see a temporary effect," said Katherine McLane, a spokeswoman for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. "But long term, within the cancer community, Lance Armstrong is a hero."
Two of Armstrong's major sponsors, including Nike and Anheuser Busch, both issued statements pledging continued support.
Armstrong's doping accusers include former teammate Floyd Landis, who was stripped of his own Tour de France victory in 2006 after he failed a drug test. Landis later faced federal charges alleging fraud in connection with a defense fund set up on his behalf. Landis reached a settlement in that case, agreeing to repay nearly half a million dollars.
For the plea agreement, Landis appeared in federal district court Friday in San Diego.
"I don't know what the solution is for the sport of cycling," Landis said outside court in response to reporter questions. "It's not my issue anymore."
Travis Tygart, CEO of the USADA, believes the outcome of the prolonged pursuit of Armstrong will serve as a deterrent.
"It's a powerful reminder to athletes that doping never pays," Tygart said.