Lance Armstrong wins AP male athlete honours

Cyclist Lance Armstrong wins the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year award for the fourth straight year

In his last chance to win, Lance Armstrong bagged the Associated Press Athlete of the Year honour for the fourth year in a row on Wednesday.

Armstrong, 34, made cycling and sports history this year by capturing his seventh consecutive Tour de France. He is the only athlete to be selected by sports writers four times since the honour was first awarded in 1931.

Armstrong received 30 of the 83 votes cast. Heisman Trophy-winning running back Reggie Bush of Southern California was second with 23 votes, and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was third with eight, followed by tennis star Roger Federer and golf's Tiger Woods with seven each.

"It's nice to win. I'll never win again," said Armstrong, 34, who describes himself as out of shape after retiring following his summer triumph in France.

He left the sport he dominated after deciding there were no more mountains to conquer on his bike.

"I'd hoped to go out on top," he said. "As a sportsman it's really hard to do, to time it right."

Armstrong calls his 2005 season "a dream" as he dominated the Tour de France again and won by a margin of four minutes 40 seconds. He said his immediate plans were to kick back "with a beer, having a blast" and play with his three young children from his first marriage.

However, things turned sour about a month later in August, when the French sports daily L'Equipe reported that six urine samples Armstrong provided during his first Tour win in 1999 tested positive for the red blood cell booster EPO.

Armstrong's legacy was suddenly at stake, a bitter pill to swallow for someone called one of the most inspirational athletes of his generation, a man who survived testicular cancer which spread to his lungs and brain.

Armstrong denied the charges fiercely and said he felt like a victim in a "setup" in a longstanding feud with the French media.

"The latter part of the year with the rumour, that was a nightmare," Armstrong said. "Fortunately, sports fans see through it."

Things calmed down by September as a happy Armstrong announced his engagement to rocker girlfriend Sheryl Crow.

His competitive side soon came out though, as he created a buzz by saying he might come out of retirement, mostly to win the Tour again and show up the French. But he quickly retreated from that idea.

"It was fairly serious, but I didn't realize how much play it would get," Armstrong said. "My fault. In hindsight, I shouldn't have done it."

with files from Associated Press