In the wake of USADA’s devastating report, the gala dedicated to the cancer fight represents the one arena in which Armstrong, 41, still stands as an unqualified champion.
As yet, there is no indication that Armstrong will ever come clean about, or rebut, his role in what USADA dubbed “the most sophisticated, professional and successful doping program that sport has ever seen” despite the fact that 11 former teammates have testified against him, offering first-hand accounts of the champion injecting himself with banned substances, undergoing blood transfusions, conspiring to evade and outfox drug tests, demanding that key teammates dope, as well, and threatening those in position to expose him.
Amid the silence, Armstrong’s major sponsors fled last week, with Nike, Anheuser-Busch and bike manufacturer Trek cutting ties with the athlete while continuing to support Livestrong. Armstrong resigned as chairman of his foundation. In Australia, where the Texan has enjoyed an ardent following, billboard-sized images of Armstrong were removed from a cancer-treatment center that houses a Livestrong branch. And there’s evidence the sport’s international credibility has suffered as a result, with Rabobank, a major Dutch bank, announcing it will terminate its 17-year sponsorship of a European professional team because it was “no longer convinced that the international professional world of cycling can make this a clean and fair sport.”
Already stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from the sport for refusing to answer USADA’s charges, Armstrong faces an even more difficult road ahead.
Cycling’s international governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI), will announce Monday whether it will affirm USADA’s findings or appeal them to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. A rejection of the report, which includes 1,000 pages of supporting documents, is difficult to fathom.
Assuming UCI affirms, Tour de France officials are expected to formally vacate the 1999-2005 titles and demand repayment of Armstrong’s winnings. The International Olympic Committee may revoke his 2000 bronze medal. And he could face a flurry of lawsuits: By a Texas-based indemnity company that paid him a $5 million bonus for winning five consecutive Tour de France titles with the understanding he did so without doping; by a London newspaper Armstrong successfully sued for libel over doping allegations; and possibly by the U.S. Justice Department, which could join a private, whistleblower action seeking repayment of more than $30 million of federal funds that bankrolled Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service cycling team.