'Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling'
LANCE ARMSTRONG has been formally stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, the International Cycling Union announced on Monday.
Confirming the decision, UCI president Pat McQuaid said "Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling" and that the American "deserves to be forgotten."
The announcement by the cycling's governing body follows a report by the United States Anti-Doping Agency which revealed evidence that the American cyclist had doped throughout his unparalleled career that saw him win more Tour titles than any other in the history of the race.
Speaking at Monday's press conference McQuaid confirmed the UCI accepted the USADA's findings and had ratified the sanctions they had imposed upon on Armstrong: "UCI will not appeal to the Court of Arbitration and recognise the sanctions USADA has imposed [on Armstrong]. UCI will back the life ban and strip him of his seven Tour de France titles."
The decision means all the results of the Texan since August 1 1998 have been nullified.
The USADA stripped Armstrong of the Tour titles he won between 1999 and 2005 and banned him for life after the cyclist announced in August he would no longer fight the charges being brought against him.
Armstrong claimed the USADA's investigation was a "witch hunt", adding "there comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough'".
The USADA sanctions have now been rubber stamped by the ICU.
The USADA's report released earlier this month was incredibly damning of Armstrong, claiming he was at the centre of "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
The 1,000 page report on the activities of Armstrong's US Postal Service team included testimony from 11 of Armstrong's former team-mates and the evidence was "conclusive and undeniable proof" of "one of the most sordid chapters in sports history"
Those 11 cyclists were each banned for six-months for their role, sanctions the UCI confirmed today while also thanking them for speaking out.
McQuaid said: "The UCI will also recognise the sanctions imposed on the riders who testified against Lance Armstrong; UCI indeed thanks them for telling their stories."
Support for Armstrong dwindled in light of the report, including sponsors Nike, who throughout the allegations which have dogged his career have defended the American. Nike said the move was made in the face of "seemingly insurmountable evidence". Trek and Anheuser-Busch have also ended their association with the cyclist.
Despite calls to do so, Armstrong has refused to admit his role in the scandal, and is yet to address the USADA report head on. On Friday he made his first public appearance since the report was released as part of his charity Livestrong's 15th anniversary celebrations, telling a 1,700-strong gathering: "I am truly humbled by your support.
"It's been an interesting couple of weeks. It's been a difficult couple of weeks for me and my family, my friends and this foundation.
"I say, 'I've been better, but I've also been worse'."
During today's announcement, McQuaid looked to defend himself and the ICU.
"UCI has nothing to hide in responding to the USADA report," he said.
"The UCI has called a special meeting of the UCI management committee next Friday to discuss this report and the measures which the UCI wishes to put in place in order that we are never faced with such a situation in the future."
While addressing the past, McQuaid was steadfast in his belief that cycling has a positive future.
He added: "This is a landmark day for cycling. Cycling has endured a lot of pain as it has absorbed the impact of the USADA report.
"UCI promised to prioritise our analysis of the report and to provide an early response and we've done that.
"My message to cycling, to our riders, to our sponsors and to our fans today is: cycling has a future.
"This is not the first time that cycling has reached a crossroads or that it has had to begin anew and to engage in the painful process of confronting its past.
"It will do so again with renewed vigour and purpose and its stakeholders and fans can be assured that it will find a new path forward.
"We're here to answer your questions and to say to the cycling community: UCI is listening and is on your side.
"We've come too far in the fight against doping to return to our past.
"Cycling has a future and something like this must never happen again."
The revelations have been dreadful for cycling, harming the reputation of the sport perhaps beyond repair. Already Dutch bank Rabobank have withdrawn as a team sponsor after a 17 year association.
Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford has looked to cut a line between the past and the present and future. The team that propelled Bradley Wiggins to the Tour de France title during the summer has been a staunch opposer of doping, yet due to their success, has come in for scrutiny in light of the Armstrong case.
"We set this team up as clean and our job is to make them go faster," he has said. "But some of the tentacles of the past are impacting. So when people see the huge advances we are making, because of what happened in the past it is understandable that people are sceptical. What we want to work towards is a future where there is no doubt, so that when someone moves performance forward nobody questions it."