(Newsroom America) -- Superstar cyclist Lance Armstrong faces the loss of all seven of his Tour de France titles as early as Friday after deciding not to pursue arbitration in the drug case brought against him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, reports said.
Armstrong, 41, who won a battle with cancer then came back to the sport he once dominated to win more stirring victories, has been locked in a bitter fight with the USADA over charges he used illegal substances during competition, charges he has vehemently denied.
But after growing weary of defending himself against seemingly unending charges, Armstrong made the decision to throw in the towel, fully aware that it will likely cost him his legacy in a sport to which he had dedicated his life.
Travis Tygart, USADA's chief executive, said stripping Armstrong of his titles was the next step, adding that the cyclist - though retired - would also be banned for life from future competitions.
He said the UCI, cycling's governing body, was "bound to recognize our decision and impose it" as a signer of the World Anti-Doping Code.
"They have no choice but to strip the titles under the code," he said in comments published by The Associated Press.
Nevertheless, the International Cycling Union intervened on Armstrong's behalf on Friday. The UCI, which was backing Armstrong's legal challenge, cited the same code and said the USADA should explain why Armstrong should lose his titles.
The organization said an explanation is required "where no hearing occurs."
Armstrong, in an interview Thursday, seem resigned to the fate his decision could bring.
"There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough.' For me, that time is now," he said, calling the USADA's investigation an "unconstitutional witch hunt."
"I have been dealing with claims that I cheated and had an unfair advantage in winning my seven Tours since 1999," Armstrong said, according to AP. "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."
The agency took his decision as an admission of guilt, giving him the label of drug cheat after becoming a hero to millions following his successful battle against testicular cancer, then returning to his beloved sport to become a champion again.
Armstrong disputed the USADA's decision to strip his titles, saying his was not an admission of guilt but rather an acknowledgement of a process he believes is unfair.
"USADA cannot assert control of a professional international sport and attempt to strip my seven Tour de France titles," Armstrong 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."
Nevertheless, the agency has asserted it has a right to strip athletes of titles and has done so in the past.
Armstrong left cycling in 2011 following a two-year federal criminal investigation into some of the same allegations he currently faces by the USADA. No charges were ever filed in that case, but the USADA said in June it had evidence against Armstrong via blood samples the agency said were "fully consistent" with blood doping.
Armstrong had filed suit against the USADA where he lives in Austin, Texas, in an attempt to block the arbitration case. A federal judge threw it out and sided with the USADA, but questioned the organization's motives.
"USADA's conduct raises serious questions about whether its real interest in charging Armstrong is to combat doping, or if it is acting according to less noble motives," such as politics or publicity, U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said in his decision.
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