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'Never say never.… Kidding'

Lance Armstrong pedals past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in July 2005 on his way to winning his seventh straight Tour de France. Later that year, Armstrong announced what became his first retirement from the sport. He returned four years later but couldn’t match the success he had had before.

Associated Press (2005)

Lance Armstrong pedals past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris in July 2005 on his way to winning his seventh straight Tour de France. Later that year, Armstrong announced what became his first retirement from the sport. He returned four years later but couldn’t match the success he had had before.

Lance Armstrong is calling this one Retirement 2.0.

The seven-time winner of the Tour de France and a target of a federal investigation into doping in cycling announced Wednesday he is retiring from the sport for good.

Armstrong first announced his retirement in 2005, the year he won his unprecedented seventh consecutive Tour after being declared free of testicular cancer. He returned in 2009.

Armstrong, 39, said he is leaving this time to spend time with his family — he has five children, from 11 years old to 4 months — and his age was catching up to him in the sport. At last year's Tour he was nearly twice as old as some of his top adversaries.

"Never say never," Armstrong, laughing, said to the Associated Press about a third comeback, then quickly added, "Just kidding."

"I can't say I have any regrets. It's been an excellent ride. I really thought I was going to win another Tour," Armstrong said about 2009. "Then I lined up like everybody else and wound up third.

"I have no regrets about (the Tour) last year, either," despite finishing 23rd. "The crashes, the problems with the bike — those were things that were beyond my control."

He was expected to compete in May at the Tour of California, the most prestigious road event in the United States. Instead, Armstrong's final ride as a pro was in January at the Tour Down Under in Australia. Riding for his RadioShack team, he finished 67th.

Doping case

During last year's Tour de France, a federal grand jury convened in Los Angeles to hear evidence in a possible criminal case against Armstrong and some of his associates over doping allegations. In charge of the investigation is Jeff Novitzky, the lead federal investigator in the BALCO doping case that involved athletes in several sports, including baseball and track. He is looking into whether Armstrong defrauded the U.S. Postal Service team, for which he raced from 1998-2005, by doping.

The Postal Service, an independent government agency, had a doping clause in its contract with the team, saying the contract would not be valid if riders used performance-enhancing drugs. Last spring, Floyd Landis, one of Armstrong's former Postal Service teammates and who had his Tour de France title stripped because of doping, accused Armstrong and other team members of doping. Armstrong has denied Landis' allegations.

"I can't control what goes on in regards to the investigation," Armstrong said. "That's why I hire people to help me with that. I try not to let it bother me and just keep rolling right along.

"I know what I know. I know what I do, and I know what I did. That's not going to change."

Cancer fighter

Armstrong will continue campaigning to raise money for cancer research and awareness of the disease. His Livestrong Foundation had raised nearly $400 million total by the end of last year.

After lobbying successfully for a constitutional amendment in Texas, his home state, to provide $3 billion for cancer research over 10 years, Armstrong has his sights set on California. This summer he'll work with its legislators to write and put on the ballot a measure mandating a cigarette tax to fund research.

In September, Armstrong will speak at a United Nations General Assembly special session on noncommunicable diseases, a session for which he provided much of the impetus.

"We knew we'd be able to have some impact, but we didn't know we'd pick up so much momentum," he said of his and his foundation's efforts.

Visiting the Tour

Armstrong will be at this year's Tour de France as a visitor with his oldest child, Luke. He may even climb into a team car to do reconnaissance work for some of the RadioShack riders.

One thing Armstrong said he would not do in retirement is spend much time reliving his accomplishments on the bike.

"In 10 years' time," he said, "if I'm sitting around saying, 'I was so strong on L'Alpe d'Huez in 2001,' then I got a problem."

'Never say never.… Kidding' 02/16/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 9:32pm]
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