(GENEVA) — The global governing body of cycling Monday said it will officially strip Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and ban him from the sport for life, marking an epic downfall for the cyclist once lauded as the greatest of all time but now at the center of a doping scandal.
“Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling,” Pat McQuaid, the president of the International Cycling Union, known as UCI, said Monday at a news conference in Switzerland. “This is a landmark day for cycling.”
The UCI’s decision comes days after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency banned Armstrong from the sport for life for alleged use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. The USADA issued a 200-page report Oct. 10 after a wide-scale investigation into Armstrong’s alleged use of performance-enhancing substances.
The agency said its investigators interviewed 26 people with direct knowledge of Armstrong’s alleged doping, including 11 teammates, and collected 1,000 pages of evidence accusing him of cheating.
McQuaid accepted the USADA’s sanctions and said he was “sickened” by the evidence in the report, pointing to testimony from one of Armstrong’s former teammates David Zabriskie, in which he details how he was allegedly coercing into doping.
Armstrong tried to fight the USADA ban in court, but told the USADA in August that he wouldn’t fight the doping charges against him. He has maintained he never cheated.
Armstrong made two appearances this weekend at the Livestrong Foundation’s 15th anniversary charity gala, but did not concede much in the way of an explanation or apology for the alleged doping that cost him his medals and lucrative sponsors.
“People ask me a lot, ‘How are you doing?’ And I tell them, ‘I’ve been better but I’ve also been worse,'” the cancer survivor said. “This mission is bigger than me. It’s bigger than any individual.”
Armstrong stepped down as the chairman of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the cancer charity commonly known as Livestrong that he founded in 1997, a year after he was diagnosed with testicular cancer at age 25. He resigned last week to “spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy.”
Nike, Anheuser-Busch and Trek Bicycles are among the companies that severed ties with the cycling star last week in the wake of the scandal. Oakley sunglasses cut ties with Armstrong Monday after the UCI decision.
As Armstrong’s sponsorships and reputation have fallen off a cliff, the silence surrounding his alleged doping methods over the years has begun to crack. In the USADA report, teammates describe years of systematic doping, using banned substances and receiving illicit blood transfusions.
A former competitor, Stephen Swart, testified in a deposition that Armstrong bribed him to throw a race with a $1 million prize. Swart said he was offered approximately $50,000 to allow Armstrong to win.
The USADA also accuses Armstrong of trying to intimidate witnesses.
Former Sports Illustrated reporter Selena Roberts said Armstrong and his inner circle tried to turn her into a villain with her bosses and smear her reputation personally when they heard she was investigation doping allegations.
“I don’t really think there’s any politician, celebrity or athlete who has really put together the machinery to suppress reporting about them like Lance Armstrong has,” Roberts said.
Roberts said Armstrong’s Livestrong Foundation was never far from the surface, something others have referred to as his “cancer shield.”
“You’re confronted with sort of the perception that if you’re not pro-Lance, then, absurdly, you’re pro-cancer,” Roberts told ABC News.
Former Bicycling magazine editor and chief Steve Madden wrote about Armstrong’s alleged influence in a blog post: “Armstrong exerted a Corleone-like influence in the cycling industry … he could make an advertiser disappear from our pages.”
McQuaid said the UCI will meet Friday to discuss the fate of Armstrong’s 2000 Olympic bronze medal.
With the UCI decision, Armstrong might face multimillion-dollar lawsuits from ex-sponsors and might have to return about $4 million in cash prizes that he has won since 1998 as a seven-time Tour champion.
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