The announcement by the seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong that he is abandoning his challenge to the drugs charges levelled against him by the US anti-doping agency cannot but leave a bitter taste.
He may indeed, as he says, be tired of the fight and simply want to put the whole affair behind him. Unless he offers a more satisfactory explanation than his anger at what he calls a one-sided process, however, the suspicion will linger, rightly or wrongly, that he was going to lose. The many fans who have given him the benefit of the doubt deserve better.
As a cycling hero and cancer survivor, Armstrong acquired a huge and devoted following around the world. But a shadow has long hung over his reputation. If at any time he used drugs to enhance his performance, he needs to admit this in public, explain how his cheating went undetected and voluntarily surrender his honours. He will then have to choose whether to withdraw from public life or continue his fund-raising in an effort to make amends.
If he is certain of his innocence, then he owes it to himself and his fans to pursue his fight against the US agency to the end. If he does not, the uncertainties that attended his later career will dog him as long as he remains in the public eye and risk compromising his charity, Livestrong. It is not an outcome that will do him credit.