AFP, LE NOUVEL OBSERVATEUR, LE FIGARO (France), THE OUTSIDE (USA), THE GUARDIAN (UK)
PARIS – “My name is Lance Armstrong, I’m a cancer survivor," the Texan-born cycling star declared last week at the World Cancer Convention in Montreal. "And yes, I won the Tour de France seven times.”
After having famously beaten the potentially fatal disease, Armstrong is now in the crucial final stretch in the battle for his professional life. And he is fighting back.
On August 23, media around the world were reporting that he had been banned for life and stripped of his record seven consecutive Tour de France titles by the United States Doping Agency (USADA) after Armstrong's announcement that he would cease his legal defense against the agency's accusations that he had used used banned substances as far back as 1996, including steroids and the blood-booster EPO.
But after several days of silence, his famous self-confidence was back on full display in Montreal last Wednesday. “No, no, I'm absolutely not afraid,” said Armstrong, according to French daily Le Figaro and the news agency AFP.
Even in the face of the press reports of his demise, Armstrong may have reason to be confident. The fact is that only the International Cycling Union (UCI) can decide whether the 40-year-old cyclist will be able to keep his seven Tour de France titles.
The Aigle, Switzerland-based UCI has said little following the American anti-doping board's decision, and it is unclear on when they will announce if they have upheld their recommendation to strip him of his Tour titles.
The USADA appears determined to bring down the cyclist, and has said that it had as many as 10 witnesses prepared to testify to Armstrong's drug use.
Among the witnesses is former Armstrong teammate Tyler Hamilton who is set to release The Secret Book, a 300-page account of doping practices in professional cycling in which he explains how Armstrong was “two years ahead of what everybody else was doing” in utilizing performance-enhancing substances.
Nine former US Postal teammates cooperated with Hamilton on The Secret Race, verifying and corroborating his account.
“No one can read this book with an open mind and still credibly believe that Armstrong didn’t dope” writes The Outside after reading Hamilton’s testimony.
In the book, Armstrong is accused of failing a test in 2001 at the Tour of Switzerland which Hamilton says was later covered up by the UCI.
According to several French newspapers including Le Nouvel Obersvateur, Lance Armstrong has always had a good relationship with the UCI.
Hein Verbruggen, who was president of the cycling body from 1991 to 2005, is accused of helping Armstrong get away with the failed test.
“Sometime after that, I remember Lance phoning Hein Verbruggen from the team bus ... and I was struck by the casual tone of the conversation. Lance was talking to the president of the UCI, the leader of the sport. But he may as well have been talking to a business partner, a friend” writes Hamilton.
Le Nouvel Observateur also claims that the Tour de France organizing company (Amaury Sport Organization), which warmly welcomed Armstrong back for the 2009 edition, knew about the Texan's illegal practices.
Meanwhile, Armstrong told conference delegates in Montreal that there is still "too much to be done" in the fight against cancer and that "we can't be distracted." He said the scandal wouldn't affect his charitable work. but it would definitely ruin Armstrong’s legacy and change the face of sport forever.
The Texan born champion could be stripped of all his results from August 1998 if he is sanctioned by the UCI. The USADA's chief executive Travis Tygart said the cycling board was "bound to recognize our decision and impose it" as a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code.
Yet the UCI could also take the unprecedented step of refusing to acknowledge USADA's sanctions. Lance Armstrong's legacy is now in the hands of the worldwide cycling body. Does he know something we don't about how their wheels are bound to turn?