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Armstrong stripped of 7 Tour de France titles, banned from cycling

By Graham Dunbar

AP Sports Writer

LAST UPDATED: 11:44 a.m. HST, Oct 22, 2012

GENEVA >> Seven lines of blanks. From 1999 to 2005. There will be no Tour de France winner in the record book for those years.

Once the toast of the Champs-Elysees, Lance Armstrong was formally stripped of his seven Tour titles Monday and banned for life for doping.

As far as the Tour is concerned, his victories never happened. He was never on the top step of the podium. The winner's yellow jersey was never on his back.

The decision by the International Cycling Union marked an end to the saga that brought down the most decorated rider in Tour history and exposed widespread cheating in the sport.

"Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling, and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling," said Pat McQuaid, president of the governing body. "Make no mistake, it's a catastrophe for him, and he has to face up to that."

It's also devastating for Tour de France organizers, who have to carve seven gaping holes from the honor roll of the sport's biggest event and airbrush Armstrong's image from a sun-baked podium on the Champs-Elysees.

No more rides through Paris for the grim-faced cancer survivor bearing the American flag. No champagne. From the sport's perspective, it's all gone.

"We wish that there is no winner for this period," Tour director Christian Prudhomme said Monday in Paris. "For us, very clearly, the titles should remain blank. Effectively, we wish for these years to remain without winners."

Armstrong's fiercely defended reputation as a clean athlete was shattered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency two weeks ago, when it detailed evidence of drug use and trafficking by his Tour-winning teams. USADA released its report to show why it ordered Armstrong banned from competition back in August. Monday's judgment by the UCI was just the necessary next legal step to formalize the loss of his titles and expel him from the sport.

It will likely also trigger painful financial hits for Armstrong as race organizers and former sponsors line up to reclaim what are now viewed as his ill-gotten rewards, though the cyclist maintains he never doped.

Prudhomme wants Armstrong to pay back prize money from his seven wins, which the French cycling federation tallied at €2.95 million ($3.85 million). Armstrong also once was awarded $7.5 million plus legal fees from Dallas-based SCA Promotions Inc., which tried to withhold paying a bonus for the rider's 2004 Tour victory after it alleged he doped to win.

The U.S. government could also get involved in a case brought by Floyd Landis, who was key to taking down his illustrious former teammate by turning whistleblower in 2010.

The losses pile up for a man who dedicated himself to victory, over other cyclists and the cancer that almost killed him in 1996.

Neither Armstrong nor his representatives had any comment about Monday's decision, but the rider was defiant in August when 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."

The condemnation by McQuaid, cycling's most senior official, confirmed Armstrong's pariah status, after the UCI had backed him at times in trying to seize control of the doping investigation from USADA.

McQuaid announced that the UCI accepted the sanctions imposed by USADA and would not appeal them to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. His board will meet Friday to discuss going after Armstrong's 2000 Olympic bronze medal and the possibility of setting up a "Truth and Reconciliation" commission to air the sport's remaining secrets.

The International Olympic Committee said it would study the UCI's response and wait to receive its full decision before possibly taking away Armstrong's medal from the Sydney Games time trial.

"It is good to see that all parties involved in this case are working together to tackle this issue," the IOC said.

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.

USADA said Armstrong was at the center of "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen" within his U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams.

The American agency welcomed the decision by UCI.

"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.

In all, 26 people — including 15 riders — testified to USADA that Armstrong and his teams used and trafficked banned substances and routinely used blood transfusions. Among the witnesses were loyal sidekick George Hincapie and admitted dopers Landis and Tyler Hamilton.

McQuaid singled out former teammate David Zabriskie, saying: "The story he told of how he was coerced and to some extent forced into doping is just mind-boggling."

Armstrong denies doping, saying he passed hundreds of drug tests, as many as 500. UCI conducted 218 tests and there were another 51 by USADA, although they are not the only drug-testing bodies.

"At the moment Lance Armstrong hasn't admitted to anything, yet all the evidence is there in this report that he doped," McQuaid said.

While drug use allegations have followed the 41-year-old Armstrong throughout much of his career, the USADA report has badly damaged his reputation. Longtime sponsors Nike, Trek Bicycles and Anheuser-Busch dropped him last week, and Armstrong also stepped down as chairman of Livestrong, the cancer awareness charity he founded 15 years ago after surviving testicular cancer that spread to his lungs and brain.

After the UCI decision, another longtime Armstrong sponsor, Oakley sunglasses, cut ties with the rider.

Armstrong's astonishing return from life-threatening illness to the summit of cycling offered an inspirational story that transcended the sport. His downfall has ended "one of the most sordid chapters in sports history," USADA said in its report.

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onevoice82 wrote:
This is a very sad day for many in the cycling world and for young men and woman who look up to our star athletes.
on October 22,2012 | 05:26AM
pgkemp wrote:
if one likes to look up to arrogant star athletes i guess that would be fine too.
on October 22,2012 | 06:32AM
pgkemp wrote:
long over due............
on October 22,2012 | 06:30AM
kennysmith wrote:
i like your idea to.
on October 22,2012 | 06:58AM
mitt_grund wrote:
Now that the truth is out and the evidence conclusive, let the dead rest in peace. Lance Armstrong, who?
on October 22,2012 | 06:55AM
allie wrote:
true..what a fraud
on October 22,2012 | 07:22AM
kennysmith wrote:
get him to do the time to.
on October 22,2012 | 06:58AM
Still did a nice job of creating wealth for himself and his family. He's got over US$100M in the bank.
on October 22,2012 | 07:19AM
lowtone123 wrote:
I wanted to believe in Armstrong when the accusations first came out. That all of this was drummed up by the french who couldn't believe that an american could enjoy this kind of success in a sport that the french considered "their" sport. But the more the accusations and envidence mounted the more it became obvious that Amstrong is nothing more than a arrogant star who is willing to deny it all while everything is crumbling around him. His legacy is tarnished, his name is associated with other athletes who was willing to do anything to be the best. Hello Barry Bonds & Roger Clemens.
on October 22,2012 | 07:54AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Whatever this dude did don't take it out on the Livestrong Cancer Foundation. I heard that a couple of donors wanted their money back. Who cares about overpaid egotistical athletes but sometimes they can do some good and his cancer foundation is one of them.
on October 22,2012 | 07:57AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Yup, at least keep this Cancer Foundation strong. At least he did this correctly.
on October 22,2012 | 08:14AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
They are re-branding as DopeStrong. The logo will feature little yellow transfusion bags to hang around your neck. This will be accompanied by TV ads focused on disillusioned children who give up their dreams of greatness to pursue huge sums of cash and beer commercials.
on October 22,2012 | 09:37AM
Kokoy wrote:
on October 22,2012 | 08:05AM
BigOpu wrote:
Still...to come back from surviving cancer and win the Tour 7 times...amazing. I don't condone his method or laud him as a hero, but surviving cancer is an accomplishment in and of itself. To physically challenge the field after that, unbelievable. Maybe the cancer doctors should study Lance's post chemo program and adapt it to the general public. My body was damaged a few years after going through chemo where the Aloha Fun Run was a feat. I still find what he did amazing...doped or not.
on October 22,2012 | 08:36AM
Kuokoa wrote:
Much of this is based on testimony of others who did the same in return for not being prosecuted themselves. Where is the physical evidence, the results of all the tests conducted on Armstrong? Show us proof of what he did and how he did it.
on October 22,2012 | 08:36AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Oh for crying out sideways, they got this thing called the internet and it has the full report of hundreds and hundreds pf pages and the sworn testimony of dozens and dozens of people with eye witness evidence. Give it up, pal, denial is a pitiful thing to see.
on October 22,2012 | 09:39AM
quint34 wrote:
Everybody doped. They have to leave it blank because they cannot find a clean athlete in cycling for the past 40 years in the top echelon of riders.
on October 22,2012 | 08:37AM
Bdpapa wrote:
Funny that he never tested positive!
on October 22,2012 | 09:05AM
oahuresident wrote:
Armstrong put cycling on the map. And now, it will go back into obscurity. He is/was no more of a cheater than any other cycler of his time. He did more good in this world with his immense contributions to cancer research, and the hope he gave to many cancer patients that they do could overcome the disease and perhaps become great.
on October 22,2012 | 09:22AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
He secured his place as a Wikipedia footnote under "Sports Doping." In the future he will be a trivia question, and deservedly anonymous except among the die-hard conspiracy ooga boogas who will persist in claiming he was a) framed, b) innocent or c) just a poor misunderstood doper.
on October 22,2012 | 09:42AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
I am by no means religious but our secular society has become one of no morals and total disregard for others. Drivers know what I mean. I see drivers making maneuvers that show total disregard for others' safety and I see errant drivers cussing out drivers who they think did something rude when in fact they were the ones who were in the wrong. I was observing my son playing a video game called World at War and saw a lot of players cheating whereby they were completely invincible. My son and I could not understand why these people would cheat. There were so many cheaters that it was un-enjoyable for him and for me to watch. Then there was the scandal regarding students cheating on the SAT. From these players on video games to SAT tests we have kids obviously not learning right from wrong. These same kids are our future and that does not bode well for us. It all begins with the parents. They are the ones that should be teaching their children right from wrong. As far Armstrong goes, the evidence is so compelling that I am glad that he has been stripped of all his titles and will forever be remembered as the man who cheated. Of course, he continues to deny his wrongdoing in hopes that others will believe him much like Jerry Sandusky who still claims that he is innocent.
on October 22,2012 | 10:59AM
realist3463 wrote:
Since the USADA is a private organization and not subject to any government or other oversight, who gives them the authority or power to strip anything from anyone? Maybe we should have USADA provide oversight to the current administration headquartered in the White House. They have been doing some very strange things lately and might be on drugs.
on October 22,2012 | 11:13AM
gunfunit wrote:
more like tour de fraud! what a disgrace for the sport's biggest icon.
on October 22,2012 | 12:31PM
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