Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is facing the loss of all his titles and a lifelong ban from cycling – the sport which turned him into an icon – after announcing he is giving up the fight against the drug charges against him.
The 40-year-old – who captivated fans with his inspiring return to glory after beating testicular cancer – said he is "finished with this nonsense".
He insists he is innocent but does not want to spend any further time or effort clearing his name.
He said: "There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough'. For me, that time is now.
"I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999."
Now the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) say they intend to impose "A loss of all results from August 1, 1998 and a lifetime ban from participating any sport sanctioned by a signatory to the WADA Code."
Lance, who also won a bronze medal at Sydney 2000, has always denied claims he ever used performance-enhancing drugs during his career.
He points to the hundreds of drug tests that he has passed as proof he was clean.
But USADA maintains that since 1996 the cyclist has used banned substances including the blood-booster EPO and steroids as well as blood transfusions to improve his performance.
Lance, who retired from cycling for the second time in 2011, holds the record for most Tour de France wins – taking the trophy each year from 1999 to 2005.
His story was made all the more impressive by the fact his run of wins came after beating cancer.
The athlete is a father of five. He has three children with ex-wife Kristin Richard, Luke David and twins Isabelle Rose and Grace Elisabeth, and two children with his girlfriend Anna Hansen.
It was thought he wouldn't be able to father more children after his battle with cancer, but the couple welcomed Maxwell in 2009 and Olivia the following year.
Lance was also engaged to singer Sheryl Crow, but the couple split in 2006 after two and a half years together.
Lance's statement in full
There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough.' For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999. Over the past three years, I have been subjected to a two-year federal criminal investigation followed by Travis Tygart's unconstitutional witch hunt. The toll this 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.
I had hoped that a federal court would stop USADA's charade. Although the court was sympathetic to my concerns and recognized the many improprieties and deﬁciencies in USADA's motives, its conduct, and its process, the court ultimately decided that it could not intervene.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. But I refuse to participate in a process that is so one-sided and unfair.
Regardless of what Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims. The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of controls I have passed with ﬂying colors. I made myself available around the clock and around the world. In-competition. Out of competition. Blood. Urine. Whatever they asked for I provided. What is the point of all this testing if, in the end, USADA will not stand by it?
From the beginning, however, this investigation has not been about learning the truth or cleaning up cycling, but about punishing me at all costs. I am a retired cyclist, yet USADA has lodged charges over 17 years old despite its own 8-year limitation.
As respected organizations such as UCI and USA Cycling have made clear, USADA lacks jurisdiction even to bring these charges.
The international bodies governing cycling have ordered USADA to stop, have given notice that no one should participate in USADA's improper proceedings, and have made it clear the pronouncements by USADA that it has banned people for life or stripped them of their accomplishments are made without authority. And as many others, including USADA's own arbitrators, have found, there is nothing even remotely fair about its process. USADA has broken the law, turned its back on its own rules, and stiff-armed those who have tried to persuade USADA to honour its obligations.
At every turn, USADA has played the role of a bully, threatening everyone in its way and challenging the good faith of anyone who questions its motives or its methods, all at US taxpayers' expense. For the last two months, USADA has endlessly repeated the mantra that there should be a single set of rules, applicable to all, but they have arrogantly refused to practice what they preach.
On top of all that, USADA has allegedly made deals with other riders that circumvent their own rules as long as they said I cheated. Many of those riders continue to race today. The bottom line is I played by the rules that were put in place by the UCI, WADA and USADA when I raced.
The idea that athletes can be convicted today without positive A and B samples, under the same rules and procedures that apply to athletes with positive tests, perverts the system and creates a process where any begrudged ex-teammate can open a USADA case out of spite or for personal gain or a cheating cyclist can cut a sweetheart deal for themselves.
It's an unfair approach, applied selectively, in opposition to all the rules. It's just not right. USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles. 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.
Today I turn the page. I will no longer address this issue, regardless of the circumstances. I will commit myself to the work I began before ever winning a single Tour de France title: serving people and families affected by cancer, especially those in underserved communities.
This October, my Foundation will celebrate 15 years of service to cancer survivors and the milestone of raising nearly $500 million. We have a lot of work to do and I'm looking forward to an end to this pointless distraction. I have a responsibility to all those who have stepped forward to devote their time and energy to the cancer cause.
I will not stop ﬁghting for that mission. Going forward, I am going to devote myself to raising my ﬁve beautiful (and energetic) kids, ﬁghting cancer, and attempting to be the ﬁttest 40-year old on the planet.