AUSTIN, Texas (AFP) –
Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong will address 4,000 bikers early on Sunday at a charity ride, a day before he learns his fate from cycling’s global governing body.
Armstrong will speak with riders at the start of the Livestrong Challenge in his hometown of Austin, Texas, as cyclists ride to raise money for his anti-cancer foundation.
Armstrong stepped down as Livestrong chairman last Wednesday, a week after the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) unveiled the evidence it used to give him a life ban for doping and strip his seven Tour de France triumphs from 1999-2005.
“It has been a difficult couple of weeks for me and my family, my friends and this foundation,” Armstrong said Friday night at the 15th anniversary gala for Livestrong, in his first public remarks since USADA’s report was released.
“We will not be deterred. We will move forward.”
Moving forward is also on the minds of leaders of the International Cycling Union (UCI), who will announce Monday afternoon in Europe, early morning in Texas, whether or not they will impose the punishments against Armstrong.
Upholding USADA’s findings likely would represent the bottom of Armstrong’s fall from grace, which last week saw such sponsors as sportswear giant Nike, Trek bicycles and brewers Anheuser-Busch distance themselves from Armstrong.
If UCI rejects imposing punishments despite USADA’s 1,000 pages of evidence, which features testimony from 26 witnesses that include 11 former Armstrong teammates, the fight is likely bound for the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
UCI president Pat McQuaid has also come under scrutiny for his handling of doping issues in cycling.
And Rabobank, which has sponsored a professional cycling team for the last 17 years, pulled its support, saying the legacy of doping in cycling is too great for it to continue.
Nothing less than the future of the sport could be at stake after a black eye by the Armstrong revelations. Armstrong never tested positive, undercutting the lack of positive dope tests for current riders as a way to ensure fairness.
Armstrong has already become a punch-line for television comedians despite his denials of any wrongdoing before the report was revealed and while he was pressing a failed US legal court challenge to have USADA’s appeal system.
A growing chorus want Armstrong to admit what he has done and apologize to those he has wronged, including a column in Armstrong’s hometown newspapaer, the American-Statesman.
“Now that Lance Armstrong has been completely disgraced and his entire cycling career has been trashed for overwhelming evidence that he cheated, Austin’s favorite son should borrow from his former sponsor Nike and ‘Just Do It.’ He should apologize,” the column began.
“To the world. To the international cycling community that revered him. To the millions of Livestrong survivors he inspired and maybe still does. To his family who stood by him. To himself.”
“He cannot right the wrongs he committed. Nor can he undo or take back the hateful, venomous things he said about anyone who had the gall to speak out against him.
“But he can just do it now, atone for his arrogance and say he’s sorry.”