Lance Armstrong Doping Controversy: ‘It’s a Sad Time in Sports History,’ Says Ryan Lochte (EXCLUSIVE)

After deciding not to contest USADA doping charges, famed cyclist Lance Armstrong faces the prospect of a lifelong ban and losing his seven Tour de France titles.

And fellow Olympic athlete Ryan Lochte feels his pain.

“If Lance is innocent, it’s a sad time in sports history,” the Team USA gold medalist told Celebuzz exclusively. “I know that it would be awful to go through all of that.”

Does the decorated swimmer think Armstrong is innocent?

“I don’t have first hand knowledge of all the facts in the situation [and] I don’t like making assumptions based on what the media reports,” Lochte explained. “None of us will know, so ultimately none of us should judge…. There’s always two sides to the story.”

Lochte sees Armstrong’s doping drama as a reminder of a larger, long-standing issue in competitive sports.

“I do feel that there should be zero tolerance for anything that artificially enhances performance,” said the swimmer. “But it should not take years after seven wins for this to be so heavily investigated and debated.”

But Lochte hopes this headline-hitting controversy won’t spoil Armstrong’s philanthropic effort.

“I know…his focus is now on the Lance Armstrong Foundation, [which] I heard has raised nearly $500 million,” he said of the cycling champ, who launched the fundraising nonprofit after fighting back from testicular cancer to win the Tour from 1999 to 2005. “There may be many reasons why he stopped fighting the doping charges, but that’s his personal decision, and I am not here to pass judgment on anyone.”

For now, Armstrong’s fate remains a uncertain. There is a question whether the USADA — the official anti-doping agency for Olympic, Pan American and Paralympic sports in the U.S. — has authority on his case. International agencies, such as the International Cycling Union, may have to weigh in before Armstrong would face the prospect of being stripped of his seven Tour de France title or banned from competition.

But at the end of the date, Lochte sees a silver lining in the scandal.

“Bottom line: it’s very unfortunate this situation occurred,” he said. “Hopefully if any good comes from this it will send a strong message to stop an athlete from even considering doping as a way to win. Everyone should learn from this and do everything in their power to make the testing system more efficient and to educate young athletes, coaches, and parents about the dangers and consequences of doping.”

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