Djokovic disappointed in Armstrong downfall


Reigning US Open champion Novak Djokovic was disappointed in the doping downfall of American cyclist Lance Armstrong, whose seven Tour de France titles have been stripped by the US Anti-Doping Agency. Armstrong, who won the world’s most famous bicycle race every year from 1999 through 2005, said Thursday he would not fight charges by US anti-doping officials that his success came as part of a doping conspiracy.
“When I heard that story, and many others, I’m disappointed as an athlete, because I know how much it takes to get to where we are and on the top of our own sport, how much sacrifice, commitment, hard work,” Djokovic said. “In the end we are all seeking to have pure sport. I’m happy that in tennis we do not have that many cases and we are trying to keep that going to keep tradition and to protect the integrity of the sport. “That’s something that sends a strong message about our sport also to young kids because they look up for heroes and they look for role models.” Djokovic, 25, has been that to the youth in his native Serbia and beyond for years and his fame could rise even higher with a repeat as US Open champion, which would bring him $2.9 million in prize money. “I do feel physically stronger and better prepared than I did last year,” Djokovic said. “Mentally I had some ups and downs throughout the season, but I think that was maybe expected in a way. It’s normal to have ups and downs.”
World No. 2 Djokovic won his third Grand Slam title in a row in January at the Australian Open by outlasting Nadal in a record-long final that went nearly six hours. Djokovic won at Miami and reached the French Open final, where Nadal denied him a career Grand Slam with a four-set triumph. He also fell to Federer in a Wimbledon semi-final but bounced back with a victory in Toronto and a run to the Cincinnati final before falling to Federer in the last big US Open tuneup. “I was very glad that I had a very successful Toronto and Cincinnati tournament,” Djokovic said. “Coming into US Open, it was very important for me to get into some hard court matches.”
Djokovic dismissed the notion he has a perfect draw with Nadal absent due to lingering knee trouble and Federer and Murray on the opposite side of the draw. “I don’t think there is a perfect draw,” he said. It’s a question of luck. “There are 128 players here who have plenty of motivation to perform their best in the last major of the year so I’m sure that they want to cause some upsets in the opening round. “I’m truly taking one step at a time. I’ve had good and bad draws. It’s something I cannot affect. I’m not calculating or predicting anything. I’m just trying to focus on my game, which is the most important thing.” Nadal will definitely be missed, Djokovic said.

Banned Armstrong back in the saddle

Lance Armstrong, branded a drug cheat and banned from cycling by the US Anti-Doping Agency, was back on a bike in Colorado on Saturday and loving every minute of it. “Had a blast racing the #poweroffour this morning,” Armstrong tweeted after finishing second in the Power of Four mountain bike race, a mostly local affair featuring tough climbs and descents on four peaks in the Aspen-Snowmass ski resort area. “Got whooped up on by a kid young enough to be my son! Keegan Swirbul – remember that name!” added Armstrong, a father of five who finished second behind 16-year-old Swirbul in the race. Armstrong, now retired from elite level cycling, was making his first public appearance since USADA announced on Friday that he would be banned for life from cycling’s top pro events and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. The record seven titles, that helped make him a sports icon in America, will be expunged from his career record because of “numerous anti-doping rule violations, including his involvement in trafficking and administering doping products to others,” but Armstrong sounded like that was the furthest thing from his mind on Saturday. “I’m more at ease now than I’ve been in 10 years,” Armstrong said after the race in comments quoted by the Denver Post. “I have five great kids and a wonderful lady in my life. My foundation is unaffected by all the noise out there.” USADA said Armstrong will forfeit all titles, medals and prizes earned from August 1, 1998, which means that in addition to the Tour titles he earned from 1999-2005 he also stands to lose the Olympic bronze medal he won in Sydney in 2000. The International Cycling Union (UCI) and Tour de France organizers have yet to comment officially, but USADA made it clear it believes they must honor its findings under the World Anti-Doping Code. “Because Mr Armstrong could have had a hearing before neutral arbitrators to contest USADA’s evidence and sanction and he voluntarily chose not to do so, USADA’s sanction is final,” the agency’s statement said. Known as a fierce fighter on the bike and off, he surprised many on Thursday night when he said he would not seek to clear himself of the official charges levied by USADA through independent arbitration. Such a case would have allowed him to hear the evidence USADA says it has gathered and contest it in a public forum in a process that could have eventually gone to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.