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Press Box: USADA to strip Armstrong of Tour titles

The SportsXchange

CYCLING

Lance Armstrong will be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and receive a lifetime ban from Olympic sports and international cycling events on Friday, according to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

"It is a sad day for all of us who love sport and athletes," said Travis Tygart, CEO of USADA. "It's a heartbreaking example of win at all costs overtaking the fair and safe option. There's no success in cheating to win."

The USADA has disqualified Armstrong from every competition in which he participated since Aug. 1, 1998, including Tour de France events. He has been disqualified from the 2000 Summer Olympics, where he won a bronze medal.

Armstrong retired last year and continues to point to more than 500 drug tests he "passed" including random testing, post-race testing and scheduled orders from USADA.

Armstrong announced Thursday not to pursue arbitration to dispute the USADA charges that allege he engaged in a blood-doping conspiracy.

"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough," Armstrong said in a release. "For me, that time is now."

By giving up a chance to go before an arbitration panel, Armstrong will not have to see former teammates testify against him -- including two who told "60 Minutes" they witnessed Armstrong doping -- although he may remain subject to million-dollar legal claims from sponsors, promotion insurers and perhaps the U.S. government. That includes approximately $7 million in sponsor bonuses he claimed for winning the Tour de France.

Armstrong, 40, said his decision to give up his legal fight does not mean he would accept the USADA's proposed punishment, nor is it an admission of guilt. His lawyers said on Thursday they will sue the USADA if the sanctions are enacted. He could fight the ruling to strip his Tour titles.

"USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles," he said. "I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours."

Further litigation wasn't in Armstrong's immediate plans. He said he and his family have been exhausted by the legal battle.

"The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today -- finished with this nonsense," he said in the statement.

He criticized the methods and motives of the USADA and Tygart, and said he "refuse(s) to take part in a process that is so one-sided and unfair."

Armstrong again noted he has never tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

The USADA has said it has "overwhelming evidence" that Armstrong doped based on lab results and eyewitness accounts. The agency is expected to ban Armstrong from competition for life and strip him of his cycling titles, including the Tour de France titles.

Armstrong's last challenge failed on Monday when a federal judge dismissed Armstrong's case against the USADA, concluding that the USADA can claim jurisdiction over Armstrong's case.

He had until Thursday to decide whether he wanted to take the dispute to an arbitration panel.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota will be named Oregon's starter in a surprise over third-year starter Bryan Bennett.

Bennett was the primary backup to Darron Thomas, who shocked many in the program when he turned pro after his junior season, and has three full seasons in coach Chip Kelly's offense.

Oregon opens the season Sept. 1 at Autzen Stadium and doesn't play a road game until Sept. 29. The opener will be Mariota's first in-game action in the fast-paced spread, read-option offense. He has gamebreaking speed and has been noted as an accurate, decisive passer by Kelly.

Bennett saw limited action last year and was forced to compete for the job with Mariota for the past seven months despite playing very well when Thomas was injured in 2011.

Oregon doesn't have a marquee opponent to open the season for the first time in several years.

The Ducks should be fine at running back with Kenjon Barner, who has run for more than 1,800 yards in three years as James' backup. He ran for 971 yards and 11 touchdowns last year.

"I've been in this position before, quite a few times throughout my career," Barner said. "When my name is called upon, yeah, it will be called upon more often now, but it's nothing new. So not too much pressure at all."

COLLEGE, OTHER

---Several months after Boise State announced its football program would leave the Mountain West Conference for the Big East, the school on Friday confirmed that many of its other sports will join the Big West.

The move to place most of its Olympic sports in the Big West will take place as of July 1, 2013, according to USA Today.

"Boise State's membership in the Big West Conference complements our Big East Conference football presence and reflects our emerging coast-to-coast profile," Boise State President Bob Kustra said in a statement. "We are truly excited by the prospects of competition and collaboration with all these new partners both athletically and academically. The Big West will be an outstanding home for the majority of our intercollegiate sports and will provide great opportunities for our student-athletes."

The school said its women's gymnastics team will compete in the Western Athletic Conference and men's wrestling will stay in the Pacific 10. It has not yet been decided which conference the Broncos' women's swimming and diving teams and the men's and women's indoor track and field teams will compete in.

The school's entry fee into the Big West is $2.5 million.

San Diego State made the same move months ago and will also begin its new conference affiliations in 2013-14.

UFC

Alas, Jon Jones has an opponent.

UFC light heavyweight champion Jones will fight former champion Vitor Belfort at the Sept. 22 event in Toronto. Jones (16-1) passed on a fight against former middleweight contender Chael Sonnen, which forced UFC president Dana White to cancel the Sept. 1 event at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Jones was slated to fight Dan Henderson at UFC 151 next weekend. Henderson had to pull out of the fight with a knee injury and Jones said he wasn't going to fight Sonnen "on eight days' notice."

UFC first approached Lyoto Machida and then Mauricio Rua to take on Jones at UFC 152 in Toronto. Both fighters declined, according to ESPN.

That left Jones to fight Belfort (21-9), who held the UFC lightweight title for eight months in 2004. Belfort won the title with a first-round TKO of Randy Couture, then lost in a rematch in August.
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