It's a pretty neat trick to admit guilt by denying guilt, but once-legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong pulled it off Thursday.
By deciding not to contest charges from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that he used performance-enhancing drugs, Armstrong loses everything he's been fighting to keep since the accusations first arose in 1999: His seven Tour de France victories and a 2000 Olympics bronze medal will be stripped, and he will be banned from major competition for life. So what does he have to gain by giving up? Maybe he can keep a few shattered threads of his reputation, which might be enough to help preserve the Livestrong anti-cancer foundation that has grown into a charity giant thanks to Armstrong's fame and the inspiration many have derived from his life story.
Meanwhile, though, only the very loyal or the very gullible would be persuaded by Armstrong's self-serving rant against the USADA, which he accuses of engaging in a "witch hunt" against him. It's laughable to think that Armstrong, a battler who routinely unleashes teams of lawyers against his accusers, would give up now simply because of "the toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me." Or because he doesn't think the USADA's arbitration process is fair. Make no mistake: Armstrong is quitting because anti-doping officials have assembled too many former teammates ready to testify against him, and too much physical evidence, for him to overcome in a fair forum. Much as fans of Armstrong -- and I count myself among them -- wish it weren't so, the greatest cyclist of all time isn't. He is a cheat.