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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 18, 2017

Innocent until proven guilty

By Travis J. Brown | Aug 24, 2012
Travis J. Brown

Whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty?

Lance Armstrong, a seven-time winner of the Tour de France, dropped his fight against charges of drug use on Thursday, saying he was weary of fighting accusations that have dogged him for years.

“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now,” Armstrong said in a statement sent to The Associated Press. “I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. The toll it has taken on my family and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today — finished with this nonsense.”

In response, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) treated Armstrong’s decision as an admission of guilt and announced that it will strip him of his Tour de France titles and impose a lifetime ban from participating in any sport that recognizes the World Anti-Doping Code.

“He had a right to contest the charges. He chose not to,” World Anti-Doping Agency president John Faley told The Associated Press. “The simple fact is that his refusal to examine the evidence means the charges had substance in them.”

Wait, what?

Armstrong never said he cheated. In fact, he maintains his innocence. And why not? He passed every drug test he was ever given.

“There is zero physical evidence to support [the] outlandish and heinous claims,” Armstrong said. “The only physical evidence is the hundreds of [doping] controls I have passed with flying colors.”

Still, the USADA outrageously maintains that Armstrong has used banned substances — including the blood-booster EPO and steroids as well as blood transfusions — as far back as 1996 to boost his performance. Armstrong called the USADA investigation an “unconstitutional witch hunt.”

“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,” Armstrong said.

Even though Armstrong has yet to be found guilty of using any banned substances, the USADA wants to hang the label of cheat on someone who overcame life-threatening testicular cancer to become a hero not only for winning his seven Tour de France titles, but also for creating a foundation that has raised nearly $500 million for cancer research since 1997. Armstrong refused to enter an arbitration process he believed was unfair. It’s telling that someone who has fought through so many trials and tribulations is this flabbergasted.

“Today I turn the page,” he said. “I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances. I will commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in underserved communities.”

Armstrong still has the support of Nike, his biggest sponsor and partner in the “Livestrong” line that raises money for cancer research. And hopefully he still has the support of his fans.

But, after years of coming at Armstrong with the hot poker, the sport of cycling has finally branded him a cheat. Even if he doesn’t deserve it.

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