So far, it’s worked brilliantly. Ripping a page from the playbook of Wall Street banks that would rather pay a fine than contest pesky, potentially humiliating charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission, Lance Armstrong decided not to defend himself against the latest round of doping allegations from his sport’s regulators, the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada). Instead, the world’s most famous cyclist and cancer survivor issued a statement that while he never did any of the things Usada accused him of, he’d like to get on with his life and focus on his family and activism rather than take part in the agency’s “one-sided, unfair … witch hunt.”
Armstrong’s equivalent of SEC fines will be steep: the probable voiding of his seven Tour de France wins (including the return of $7 million in prize money); forfeiting his 2000 Olympic bronze medal; and, at age 40, a lifetime ban from professional, Olympic-style sports—no more New York marathons, triathlons, or Iron Mans (an announced aspiration). It’s a hefty price to pay, but consider the alternative: hearings expected to include eyewitness testimony that he took testosterone and the blood booster EPO, got illicit blood transfusions, and conspired to help his entire team dope. Armstrong accepted these sanctions as the lesser of evils—a way to limit his liability, as any large corporation might, even if it meant absorbing a hit to the credibility of his brand.