Lance Armstrong wrapped up his international racing career on Sunday at the final stage of the Tour Down Under.
Armstrong riding for RadioShack, finished his final international World Tour event in 67th position, 6min 42sec behind overall winner 23 year-old Australian Cameron Meyer of Garmin-Cervelo.
The Texan was presented with a thank you gift from South Australian Premier Mike Rann who credited Armstrong with drawing crowds of nearly 800, 000 and raising AUS$40 million for the local economy this year alone.
Rann said he hoped a pair of locally-made RM Williams boots, an iconic Australian manufacturer, would be worn by Armstrong the next time he visited the race. To that Armstrong excitedly replied after inspection: "I'll wear them tonight."
"This is amazing and to start and finish in this city and to be all around the area, all over South Australia, to be treated like kings when we often are not, I should say, sometimes, it's been a real pleasure," Armstrong told the crowd at the presentation.
"I congratulate you all on building an unbelievable event ... we travel all over the world and you do not see crowds or an atmosphere like this in many places.
"This rivals the Tour [de France], the Giro [d'Italia]and all the big races.
"Thanks for a great couple of years, a great few years. Not just from myself but from all of us in the peloton."
Armstrong made a quick getaway from the presentation and did not take any questions from the waiting media.
In 2009, Armstrong chose the Tour Down Under as the event for his international comeback from retirement.
As he steps down from racing in these major events, Armstrong is facing an ongoing US federal investigation that his former mechanic and assistant, Mike Anderson, sees as likely to have a negative outcome.
"Whatever happens, happens," Anderson said, according to the Sunday Star-Times. "But what he may become is a symbol for decades of corruption in professional cycling."
Anderson, now running a bike shop in Wellington, New Zealand, spent two years as Armstrong's mechanic and personal assistant before being suddenly dismissed in 2004. Anderson sued for defamation and breach of contract and in 2005, Armstrong settled the case out of court.
However, Anderson's testimony from the lawsuit contained information linking Armstrong to possible doping activity, and has been picked up by the US federal investigation currently underway, led by the FDA's Jeff Novitzky.
"I've spoken to Novitzky on the phone at length last year. The guy is described by people as the Elliott Ness of his area of law enforcement and if you've got him on your tail you're in big trouble,"
"He doesn't undertake things he isn't going to win. Those guys have a ridiculously high ratio of convictions – they don't undertake superfluous investigations and I don't think this is going to be a good outcome if you're Lance Armstrong."
Anderson testified in his lawsuit that he discovered a box in Armstrong's apartment in Girona labeled "Andro" and identified the substance as likely Androstenedione, a banned steroid. The find, he said, changed his view of his former boss.
"To be honest when I finally realised what was going on it was very troubling to me because Lance was my friend. When I had my hand forced and had to say `I know what's going on' it was like telling a bunch of kids there's no such thing as Santa Claus; it popped the bubble for a lot of people who had deified Lance and it still troubles me."
Armstrong's spokesman dismissed Anderson's claims, calling them "old lies".
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