Ryan Hudson at SBNation has some thoughtful commentary on Lance Armstrong's decision not to continue fighting the USADA's doping charges against him. Go read his piece, then come back. Or don't; I won't be upset.
I'd long held the opinion that Armstrong was clean, largely because no one was able to pin a beyond-a-shadow-of-doubt positive drug test result on him. I saw the continued efforts by French news organizations and anti-doping agencies as witch hunts, or people with axes to grind. But as more positive tests took down other riders (Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton, Alberto Contador) and the drumbeat against Armstrong continued, I stopped thinking about Armstrong's claims of innocence. If he was guilty, they'd eventually find something, even if the statute of limitations had expired or the positive tests came decades after his Tour victories. Well, here we are. By essentially pleading "no contest" Armstrong will lose his Tour wins (despite tenuous USADA authority to remove them) and be banned from a sport from which he retired years ago. It doesn't matter. At this point I assume everyone in cycling is on something. I assume it about all sports, actually. Humans are not meant to ride 100 miles a day for three weeks. What difference does it make if they're riding while on EPO or extra-oxygenated blood or horse testosterone? How is that any different from having a faster bike or a better organized team?
I give up. Everyone is on something. Every athlete wants a competitive advantage, and if it's not available legally then they'll get it illegally. And what's stopping them? Everyone else is doing it.
I'll tell you who's riding clean: I am. I ride my bike three or four times a week on water and Clif bars. I used to idolize Lance Armstrong and imagine him riding up the hill in front of me, "dancing in his pedals" as one of the Tour commentators once said of him. But that was years ago. Now, I don't need his inspiration. He doesn't need to be my hero. And he shouldn't be yours either. None of our star athletes should be.