After more than a decade of outrunning accusations that he had doped during his celebrated cycling career, Lance Armstrong, one of the best known and most accomplished athletes in recent history, surrendered on Thursday, ending his fight against charges that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

Armstrong, who won the Tour de France an unprecedented seven straight times, said that he would not continue to contest the charges levied against him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which claimed that he doped and was one of the ringleaders of systematic doping on his Tour-winning teams. He continued to deny ever doping, calling the anti-doping agency's case against him “an unconstitutional witch hunt” and saying the process it followed to deal with his matter was “one-sided and unfair”.

“There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough’,” Armstrong said in a statement. “For me, that time is now”.

Armstrong, who turns 41 next month, said he would not contest the charges because it had taken too much of a toll on his family and his work for his cancer foundation, saying he was “finished with this nonsense”.

Armstrong's decision, according to the World Anti-Doping Code, means he will be stripped of his seven Tour titles, the bronze medal he won at the 2000 Olympics and all other titles, awards and money he won from August 1998 onwards. It also means he will be barred for life from competing, coaching or having any official role with any Olympic sport or other sport that follows the World Anti-Doping Code. “'It's a sad day for all of us who love sport and our athletic heroes,” Travis Tygart, chief executive of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, said. “It's yet another heartbreaking example of how the win-at-all-costs culture, if left unchecked, will overtake fair, safe and honest competition.”

As in many other high-profile doping cases including that of the Olympic sprinter Marion Jones and other athletes involved in the sprawling Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative case, known as BALCO Tygart and the anti-doping agency were basing their case not on a positive drug test but rather on other supporting evidence. Armstrong seized on that in his statement. He said again and again that he had never tested positive although he did test positive at the 1999 Tour for a corticosteroid, for which he produced a backdated doctor’s prescription. Armstrong also said the case against him was flimsy without that physical evidence. — ©New York Times News Service, 2012

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