Aug. 23, 2012 — -- It's being called one of the greatest frauds in the history of sport: Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs to cheat his way to the top, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, whose allegations will no longer be challenged by Armstrong.
Armstrong, 40, essentially walked away from the doping case the USADA brought against him, calling it an "unconstitutional witch hunt" and declining to fight it in arbitration. But even as he did so, Armstrong maintained his innocence.
"If I thought for one moment that by participating in USADA's process, I could confront these allegations in a fair setting and -- once and for all -- put these charges to rest, I would jump at the chance," Armstrong said in a lengthy prepared statement Thursday evening. "But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair."
USADA CEO Travis T. Tygart reacted late Thursday to reports of Armstrong's decision not to enter arbitration, though the group said it had not yet received formal notice.
"It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and our athletic heroes," Tygart said in a written statement. "This is a heartbreaking example of how the win-at-all-costs culture of sport, if left unchecked, will overtake fair, safe and honest competition, but for clean athletes, it is a reassuring reminder that there is hope for future generations to compete on a level playing field without the use of performance-enhancing drugs."
Armstrong will now face a lifetime ban from all elite-level sports and the stripping of his tour titles, according to the USADA.
Armstrong, who is retired, argued that he never failed a drug test and that the USADA should not have the right to strip him of his titles.
"USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles," Armstrong said. "I know who won those seven tours, my teammates know who won those seven tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven tours. We all raced together. For three weeks over the same roads, the same mountains, and against all the weather and elements that we had to confront. There were no shortcuts, there was no special treatment. The same courses, the same rules. The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that. Especially not Travis Tygart."
The battle to avoid this moment has been epic. Armstrong enlisted help from Congress to pressure the Anti-Doping Agency and, through his team of high-powered lawyers, he sued USADA in federal court.
None of it worked, leaving Armstrong to face a reported 10 former teammates under oath and more damaging revelations. Rather than face them, he walked away.
So if he never failed a drug test, how did he cheat? A former teammate widely believed to be one of the Armstrong witnesses, Jonathan Vaughters, confessed his own doping on the New York Times opinion pages just two weeks ago, writing, "When I was racing in the 1990s and early 2000s, the rules were easily circumvented by any and all."
Convicted doper Floyd Landis, another Armstrong teammate, said he saw Armstrong using the performance enhancing drug EPO.
"I also received some from him," Landis told ABC News. "You know, rather than go into entire detail of every single time I've seen it: Yes, I saw Lance Armstrong using drugs."
Armstrong always boasted he was the most tested athlete in sports history -- but that may not have been quite true.