GENEVA (Reuters) – Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life on Monday after the International Cycling Union (UCI) ratified the United States Anti-Doping Agency‘s (USADA) sanctions against the American.
The long-awaited decision has left cycling facing its “greatest crisis” according to UCI president Pat McQuaid and has destroyed Armstrong’s last hope of clearing his name.
“Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. Lance Armstrong deserves to be forgotten in cycling,” McQuaid told a news conference as he outlined how cycling, long battered by doping problems for decades, would have to start all over again.
“The UCI wishes to begin that journey on that path forward today by confirming that it will not appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and that it will recognize the sanction that USADA has imposed.
“I was sickened by what I read in the USADA report.”
On October 10, USADA published a report into Armstrong which alleged the now-retired rider had been involved in the “most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”.
Armstrong, 41, had previously elected not to contest USADA charges, prompting USADA to propose his punishment pending confirmation from cycling’s world governing body.
Former Armstrong team mates at his U.S. Postal and Discovery Channel outfits, where he won his seven successive Tour titles from 1999 to 2005, testified against him and themselves and were given reduced bans by the American authorities.
“It wasn’t until the intervention of federal agents…they called these riders in and they put down a gun and badge on the table in front of them and said ‘you’re now facing a grand jury you must tell the truth’ that those riders broke down,” McQuaid added.
Armstrong, widely accepted as one of the greatest cyclists of all time given he fought back from cancer to dominate the sport, has always denied doping and says he has never failed a doping test.
He said he had stopped contesting the charges after years of probes and rumors because “there comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough'”.
McQuaid, who faced criticism from several quarters for his and the UCI’s handling of the affair, said he would not be resigning.
“Cycling has a future. This is not the first time cycling has reached a crossroads or that it has had to begin anew,” he said in front of a packed room full of journalists and television cameras.
“When I took over (as president) in 2005 I made the fight against doping my priority. I acknowledged cycling had a culture of doping. Cycling has come a long way. I have no intention of resigning as president of the UCI.
“I am sorry we couldn’t catch every damn one of them red handed and throw them out of the sport.”
Other issues such as the potential re-awarding of Armstrong’s Tour titles and the matter of prize money will be discussed by the UCI Management Committee on Friday.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme has said he believes no rider should inherit the titles given doping was so widespread among the peloton at the time but McQuaid made it clear that that decision rested with his organization, not the Tour organizers.
USADA charged five people over the doping ring. Doctors Luis Garcia del Moral and Michele Ferrari and trainer Pepe Marti have been banned for life while Armstrong’s mentor Johan Bruyneel has chosen to go to arbitration along with doctor Pedro Celaya.