– The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency has stripped cyclist Lance Armstrong of his unprecedented seven Tour de France titles after he declared he was finished fighting the drug charges that threaten his legacy as one of the greatest cyclists of all time. Travis Tygart, USADA’s chief executive, said Armstrong would also be hit with a lifetime ban on Friday. Still to be heard from was the sport’s governing body, the International Cycling Union, which had backed Armstrong’s legal challenge to USADA’s authority.
Armstrong, who retired last year, declined to enter USADA’s arbitration process — his last option — because he said he was weary of fighting accusations that have dogged him for years. He has consistently pointed to the hundreds of drug tests that he has passed as proof of his innocence during his extraordinary run of Tour titles stretchingfrom1999-2005. Armstrong said in a statement sent to The Associated Press,
“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. 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.”
In a news release, USADA said Armstrong’s decision not to take the charges against him to arbitration triggers the lifetime ineligibility and forfeiture of all results from Aug. 1, 1998, through the present, which would include the Tour de France titles he won from 1999 through 2005. Armstrong has strongly denied doping and contends USADA was on an “unconstitutional witch hunt” without any physical evidence against him.
USADA maintains that Armstrong has used banned substances as far back as 1996, including the blood-booster EPO and steroids as well as blood transfusions — all to boost his performance. The agency also said it had blood tests from 2009 and 2010 that were “fully consistent” with blood doping. Armstrong, 40, retired from cycling in 2011 without being charged after a two-year federal criminal investigation into many of the same accusations he faces from USADA.
– Cyclist Floyd Landis says he has reached an agreement with federal prosecutors over allegations that he fraudulently solicited donations for a defence fund he set up to fight doping charges. Court documents show Landis is scheduled to appear before a federal judge Friday morning for a “deferred prosecution” hearing. Landis tells ESPN.com that at the hearing he will agree to repay all the donors within three years, and prosecutors will agree not to pursue charges. The Floyd Fairness Fund exceeded $1 million. ESPN says the document Landis will sign says that he raised money under false pretenses by saying he was innocent of doping. He later admitted that he did use performance-enhancing drugs. Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title.
– According to F4WOnline, part of WWE’s booking of the Brock Lesnar vs. Triple H storyline has been done to keep the door open for a potential Brock Lesnar vs. Undertaker match at WrestleMania 29.
– WWE’s website has an article up looking at seven potential opponents for World Heavyweight champion Sheamus. Here are some quotes of what Sheamus said about each of the contenders:
The Undertaker: “I’ve achieved pretty much everything — WWE Champion, World Heavyweight Champion, Royal Rumble winner, King of the Ring — all that’s left for me to do really is to take out The Streak.”
Randy Orton: “Me and [Randy] Orton are no strangers to each other. I have a lot of respect for him, though I’m not sure how he feels about me. If he’s top contender for the World Heavyweight Championship, I’m more than happy to give him that opportunity.”
Wade Barrett: “There’s a good rivalry between Ireland and England. Barrett and I definitely mixed it up in the past. It’s never pretty, but it’s always a great fight and I’m sure there’s going to be plenty more opportunities for people to see the two of us go at it.”
Kane: “I’ve faced off with Kane before. He’s another larger-than-life Superstar. It doesn’t happen a lot, but I’d be the smaller guy in that fight. That’s OK — it would be great to go in there and mix it up with [The Big Red Monster].”
CM Punk: “I think a match with [CM] Punk would be great. Talking about dream matches, I think the WWE Champion against the World Heavyweight Champion is a match people would like to see. He calls himself ‘The Best in the World’ — I’d like him to prove it in the ring with me.”
Big Show: “Big Show has achieved so much in WWE, and for me, the tougher the fight, the better. And what tougher fight is there than against the 7-foot giant?”
Brock Lesnar: “Brock Lesnar? Absolutely, fella. [He’s a] fellow ginger with an aggressive streak in him. You talk about how aggressive I am, but I think [Lesnar] would definitely be one of the toughest opponents I’d face in my life.”
– Brodus Clay recently spoke with The Appleton Post Crescent to promote next week’s SmackDown tapings in Green Bay. Here are some highlights of what Clay said about:
His Funkasaurus Gimmick: “To be honest, that’s more of who I am. I never was the silent angry type. I’ve always had a big mouth. I’ve always been loud. Some people would say obnoxious, other people say entertaining, charming, it just depends on who you’re around. This is just more of who I am. … It’s hard to be angry all the time I think.”
Wrestling On RAW vs. SmackDown: “When it comes to competing, I just think everyone here is a professional. Probably the guy I was most excited to get a chance to be in the ring with was Big Show. For me, that was a career highlight even though it didn’t really go the way I wanted it to. I was a little banged up, but he was always one of the guys who was a measuring stick in terms of who I wanted to be, so that was a tremendous thrill for me. At the same time, I was nervous because he’s the Big Show (laughs). Both brands are their own world and they’re very different, yet the same. Do I have a favorite one? I just like being used in either one. They’re both great in their own way. Blue is more of my favorite color than red, but it doesn’t really matter to me.”
– Kirby Mack (aka Stan Stansky) and Stoney Hooker (a/k/a Arthur Rosenberg), who faced Ryback in a Handicap Match on the June 4, 2012 episode of Raw, recalled their WWE experience in an interview with The Do Your J.O.B. Wrestling Hour. Highlights from the interview are as follows:
The process being selected to face Ryback: “Before we got there I got a call from a buddy of mine who runs High Velocity Wrestling who was in contact with the WWE and they called him and said we are looking for 2 guys this time…They wanted Ryback to lift 2 guys…we did our tryout but Ryback wanted the biggest guys to pick up to be impressive so right off the bat he pick 2 guys out of I think Tennessee that were really big and he went through the motions with them to see if he could lift them up, now he was able to lift them up but it was not pretty. It wasn’t good for live tv and that’s what Arn Anderson was saying…so they picked Stoney, and originally they picked another guy named Chase Owens who had been squashed by Ryback a week or two before so Arn looked at him and said didn’t Ryback already beat you up like a week ago on tv and he said yes and thankfully they picked me”
Nerves cutting the promo before the match: “The nerves didn’t kick in until we were about to go live…they gave us the promo at about 3 or 4 o’clock…and we literally rehearsed it till like 8:53 and then we rehearsed it before the commercial break in the ring…it wasn’t so much nerves but the problem with that promo was I think everyone in the back knew the promo before we did…it was tough not learning the promo but learning the promo in unison”
Reaction to the match: “Obviously to us it felt great we had a blast, it was an awesome time. I realize now it’s a PG era and it’s kinda hard to see because if the camera angle but at one point Ryback had actually busted my lip and I was bleeding pretty hard and as I was laying there I’m not thinking PG I’m thinking I’m bleeding on tv I need to get the blood put so people can see it…the referee rolled over to me and was like “Suck that blood up right now! This is PG!” so I had to suck the blood up…we come back after the match and were coming down off this high that we’re on because we just lived our dream essentially…everybody in the back knew we were gonna mess up the promo they expected it, but everyone was very complimentary. The scariest part to me was Triple H came out of the gorilla position, and from what I understand he never comes out of the gorilla pit, he came out and goes “You, you come here!” and IMF like this isn’t good and I’m walking with my head down and he was like “Great f’ing job. Great job!” and I was like oh thank you!”
– UFA F Shane Doan will sign a contract before the current CBA expires on September 15, according to his agent Terry Bross. ”(Ownership has to) be done before the 15th, otherwise we’re signing somewhere because we don’t know what the new CBA is going to look like, and I don’t know if it’s going to limit any scope of a contract, so we want to make sure we sign before then. I guess from that respect, time is ticking.” The NHL wants to limit the length of contracts to a maximum of five years in the new CBA, and extend the amount of years it takes to become a UFA to 10, which is the reason why several players have been agreeing to six- and seven-year contracts this summer. Coyotes’ GM Don Maloney is still talking with Doan and his agent on a new contract, and are still believed to be his priority in signing a deal.
– Bulls’ G Derrick Rose (knee surgery) is “expected to take part in some light on-court activity soon,” according to Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated. Rose is “coming along great.” His upper body is “stronger than ever before” while he works on strengthening his lower half, and the “light” on-court work would be his first since surgery. Rose is still expected to be out through the All-Star break and targeting a March return.
– Bulls’ F Joakim Noah (ankle) is not playing 5-on-5 yet, but he is expected to be 100% healthy before training camp begins. Noah was still not 100% in July after going down with a severely sprained ankle in the beginning of May. Although he’s yet to be cleared for 5-on-5, Sports Illustrated was “assured” that Noah will be “100% by early October.”
– Hornets’ F Robin Lopez (knee surgery) said that he feels “great” and is on schedule to be fully recovered before training camp. Lopez was already expected to recover in time for training camp, but the report suggests that he’s progressing well. He’s expected to serve as the team’s starting centre. He has career averages of 5.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.8 blocks on 51.7% shooting in under 15 minutes per game.
– Astros’ owner Jim Crane admits he’s “open” to the idea of signing RHP Roger Clemens. Crane says the Astros have not been contacted by Clemens about pitching this season, but that the club is “getting prepared for that possibility.” Clemens will make a start for the independent Atlantic League’s “Sugar Land Skeeters” on Saturday. “If it goes alright and he comes to us, we’ll talk to baseball about it at length. The only thing we don’t want to do is make it a publicity stunt. If we did it, I want to try and take it and turn it into a positive, which would be Roger’s doing it for the good of baseball.” The 50-year-old last pitched on October 7, 2007.
– CBS’ Jon Heyman reports the Indians are “resigned to the idea” they won’t be able to sign OF Shin-Soo Choo to a long-term contract, and will “listen again to trade offers” this winter. GM Chris Antonetti says that the Tribe have tried to extend Choo “multiple times” over the past few seasons, but the 30-year-old has given no indication he’s willing to sign a long-term deal. Choo remains under team control for one more season. Antonetti says it’s not a given that the Indians will unload Choo this winter, and that he could be shopped next summer or allowed to walk and fetch draft pick compensation. Choo is batting .286/.369/.469 through 518 plate appearances in 2012.