Armstrong gets support from fellow riders
FILE - In this July 24, 2004, file photo, overall leader Lance Armstrong, right, of Austin, Texas, follows compatriot and teammate Floyd Landis, left, in the ascent of the La Croix Fry pass during the 17th stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Bourg-d'Oisans and Le Grand Bornand, French Alps. Armstrong, whose stirring victories after his comeback from cancer helped him transcend sports, chose not to pursue arbitration in the drug case brought against him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. That was his last option in his bitter fight with USADA and his decision set the stage for the titles to be stripped and his name to be all but wiped from the record books of the sport he once ruled. (AP Photo/Bernard Papon, Pool, File)
MADRID (AP) — Lance Armstrong received plenty of support from fellow riders Friday.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him for life after the American decided not to fight charges that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his career.
One former rival, Filippo Simeoni, questioned why Armstrong didn't continue to contest the charges.
"It leaves me a bit perplexed, because someone like him, with all the fame and popularity and millions of dollars he has, should fight to the end if he's innocent," Simeoni told The Associated Press from his home in Sezze, Italy, during a lunch break from operating his coffee bar. "But I guess he realized it was a useless fight and the evidence USADA had was too great."
Simeoni welcomed the changes in cycling that have led to stricter doping rules since Armstrong won his seven titles from 1999-2005, but said more should have been done a long time ago.
FILE - This July 28, 2002 file photo shows Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, center, flanked by best sprinter Robbie McEwen, of Australia, right, and best climber Laurent Jalabert, of France, after the 20th and final stage of the Tour de France cycling in Paris. The superstar cyclist, whose stirring victories after his comeback from cancer helped him transcend sports, chose not to pursue arbitration in the drug case brought against him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. That was his last option in his bitter fight with USADA and his decision set the stage for the titles to be stripped and his name to be all but wiped from the record books of the sport he once ruled. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong, File)
"That entire decade was one big bluff," Simeoni said.
At the Spanish Vuelta, riders including former rival and teammate Alberto Contador joined ex-Armstrong coach Johan Bruyneel in offering support.
"I think he was a cyclist who always showed such strength, great intelligence and spectacular physical conditioning," said Contador, who edged Armstrong for his second Tour title in the first year of his comeback in 2009 and has battled his own doping charges. "We should wait and see what happens at the close before passing judgment."
Bruyneel called Armstrong a victim of an "unjust" legal case.
"I'm disappointed for Lance and for cycling in general that things have reached a stage where Lance feels that he has had enough and is no longer willing to participate in USADA's campaign against him," Bruyneel wrote on his personal website. "Lance has never withdrawn from a fair fight in his life, so his decision today underlines what an unjust process this has been."