American cyclist Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life by cycling’s governing body Monday following a report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that accused him of leading a massive doping program on his teams.
This feat — arguably the world’s toughest sporting event in history.
Armstrong once considered the greatest rider in Tour history, now has been cast out of cyclist heaven, to forever be stripped of his titles.
”Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling,” said Pat McQuaid, the president said of the International Cycling Union. ”This is a landmark day for cycling.”
McQuaid announced that his group, known as UCI, accepted sanctions imposed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and would not appeal them to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. McQuaid said he was ”sickened” by some of the evidence detailed by USADA in its 200-page report and hundreds of pages of supporting testimony and documents.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme said he no longer considers Armstrong to be a champion from 1999-2005 and wants him to pay back his prize money.
”We wish that there is no winner for this period,” he said in Paris. ”For us, very clearly, the titles should remain blank. Effectively, we wish for these years to remain without winners.”
Armstrong’s representatives had no immediate comment, but the rider was defiant in August as he chose not to fight USADA in one of the agency’s arbitration hearings. He argued the process was rigged against him.
”I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours,” Armstrong said then. ”The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that.”
Amid the silence, Armstrong’s major sponsors dropped him last week, with Nike, Anheuser-Busch and bike manufacturer Trek cutting ties with the athlete. According to his website, he has also stepped down as chairman for LiveStrong.
USADA said Armstrong should be banned and stripped of his Tour titles for ”the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen” within his U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams. He will lose all his race results since August 1998.
The agency welcomed the decision by UCI, following months of sparring between the two organizations.
”Today, the UCI made the right decision in the Lance Armstrong case,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement, which called on cycling to continue to fight doping. ”There are many more details of doping that are hidden, many more doping doctors, and corrupt team directors and the omerta has not yet been fully broken.”
The USADA report said Armstrong and his teams used steroids, the blood booster EPO and blood transfusions. The report included statements from 11 former teammates who testified against Armstrong, including that he pressured them to take banned drugs.
Armstrong vehemently denies doping, saying he passed hundreds of drug tests – he has claimed as many as 500. UCI conducted 218 tests and there were another 51 by USADA, although they are not the only drug-testing bodies. USADA’s report, released earlier this month, was aimed at showing why the agency ordered the sanctions against him.
On Sunday, Armstrong greeted about 4,300 cyclists at his Livestrong charity’s fundraiser bike ride in Texas, telling the crowd he’s faced a ”very difficult” few weeks.
”I’ve been better, but I’ve also been worse,” Armstrong, a cancer survivor, told the crowd.
CNN contributed to this report.