Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) has announced his retirement from professional cycling, calling time on a career that had become increasingly mired in controversy. The RadioShack rider had been pencilled in to take part in a number of events on the US calendar in 2011, but it now appears that January’s Santos Tour Down Under was his final competitive race.
Armstrong revealed his decision in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday in Austin, Texas. He insisted he had no regrets about his decision to return to the sport in late 2008, in spite of his failure to win an 8th Tour de France and the allegations of doping in his former US Postal Service team that surfaced in 2010.
“I can’t say I have any regrets. It’s been an excellent ride. I really thought I was going to win another Tour,” Armstrong told AP. “Then I lined up like everybody else and wound up third.”
Armstrong swapped Astana for the new RadioShack team ahead of the 2010 season but he endured a torrid time last July, ultimately finishing in 23rd place.
“I have no regrets about last year, either,” he said. “The crashes, the problems with the bike - those were things that were beyond my control.”
Armstrong’s final months in the peloton have been dominated by allegations of systematic doping in his former US Postal team. The matter is currently being investigated by FDA special agent Jeff Novitzky and fresh allegations of impropriety surfaced in Sports Illustrated in January.
“I can’t control what goes on in regards to the investigation,” Armstrong said. “That’s why I hire people to help me with that. I try not to let it bother me and just keep rolling right along. I know what I know. I know what I do and I know what I did. That’s not going to change.”
Armstrong leaves the sport a controversial and divisive figure. Although his seven Tour de France victories constitute a record, his career was consistently dogged by allegations of doping. He also clashed publicly with a number of his peers, including Christophe Bassons at the 1999 Tour and Filippo Simeoni in 2004.
“A lot of that has been overanalyzed and inaccurately portrayed, but it’s part and parcel of cycling. It’s how cycling operates,” Armstrong said. “There’s too much infighting, jealousy and bitterness within the sport, so everybody tries to pick apart a person or a spectacular performance. And some of it, we bring on ourselves.”
While Armstrong’s legacy to cycling is set to be forever problematic, he was keen to highlight the impact his recovery from testicular cancer in 1996 and his subsequent campaigning have had on raising awareness of the disease.
“We knew we’d be able to have some impact, but we didn’t know we’d pick up so much momentum,” he said.
In his retirement, Armstrong seems set to focus his energies on his Livestrong foundation and he appeared to distance himself from the possibility of entering into the world of politics.
“I don’t think so,” he said, when asked if he had political aspirations. “I get asked that question a lot. It’s a job. It’s probably many times a thankless job. … If I were to run for any kind of office, it’s impossible or very difficult to run right down the middle.
“I would have to immediately alienate half of our constituents: ‘Wait a minute, we thought this guy was a Republican. Wait a minute, we thought he was a Democrat.’ I think the effect there would be a negative effect for the foundation. For now, absolutely not on my radar.”