SLATE.FR, LE FIGARO (France), ASSOCIATED PRESS (U.S.)
The cycling world was awash with speculation on Friday that American cyclist Lance Armstrong could be stripped of his seven consecutive Tour de France titles, after announcing he was giving up the fight against doping charges from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
Le Figaro reports that only the Swiss-based International Cycling Union (UCI) can strip Mr. Armstrong of the titles, which he won from 1999 to 2005. By early Friday afternoon, the ICU had not yet commented on the latest development in the case.
If Armstrong were to lose his titles, international cycling authorities will face an unprecedented challenge to attribute the victorious Tour de France yellow jersey to other cyclists, some of whom are also caught up in doping scandals.
Slate.fr reports that for some years, in order to obtain a truly "clean" winner, authorities would have to go beyond the 20th-place finisher.
So what now? Give the titles to Beloki (banned), Ullrich (banned) and Basso (banned)? A whole decade of a sport I love tainted. #armstrong
— Dave Harrison (@dave_harrison) August 24, 2012
In a statement released on Thursday before the midnight deadline for him to challenge the USADA accusations, Armstrong announced that "There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, "Enough is enough." For me, that time is now."
"I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair," he added.
The Associated Press reports that USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said the UCI was "bound to recognize our decision and impose it" and that the cyclist would lose all of his titles and face a lifetime ban, despite being retired.
Armstrong lashed out at the USADA in his statement, writing that it had "broken the law, turned its back on its own rules, and stiff-armed those who have tried to persuade it to honor its obligations."
The cyclist came up clean in hundreds of drug tests over the course of his career, but he was dogged by allegations of doping as early as 1999. The USADA took Armstrong's decision not to pursue arbitration as an admission of guilt, according to the Associated Press.
Armstrong's had built a reputation as a champion athlete who popularized cycling in the United States, defeated testicular cancer and went on to found an organization devoted to cancer research that sold millions of yellow plastic "Livestrong" bracelets.