Lance Armstrong’s record seven Tour de France championships propelled a niche sport to global prominence. And coming in the wake of an odds-defying victory over testicular cancer, Armstrong’s athletic feats transcended the arena of sport to inspire millions facing health crises of their own. Yet on Monday, the head of cycling’s international governing body, a longtime Armstrong defender, said the sport would be better off without him.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) banished Armstrong from ever competing again and formally stripped him of his Tour de France titles, along with every cycling achievement since 2008, endorsing the punishment laid out earlier this week by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Lance Armstrong told an audience at the cancer-fighting charity he founded years ago that "it's been a difficult couple of weeks." He was recently banned from cycling and stripped of his Tour de France titles in a doping scandal.
Already an outcast in cycling after a massive doping report, Lance Armstrong absorbed hits much closer to home Wednesday: to his wallet and his heart. The AP's John Mone has the story from Armstrong's hometown.
But UCI President Pat McQuaid didn’t stop there. So repulsed by the extent of USADA’s evidence that Armstrong had doped, lied, bullied and threatened his way to glory — even demanding that key teammates on the U.S. Postal Service squad dope as well to further his championship pursuits — McQuaid said Armstrong should be expunged from the sport’s memory.
“Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling, and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling,” McQuaid, a former competitive cyclist himself, said at a news conference in Geneva. “This is a landmark day for cycling.”
Armstrong is left with no opportunity for redemption competitively and no prospect for forgiveness unless and until he joins 11 of his former teammates in disclosing his part in what USADA documented to be “the most sophisticated, professional and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
UCI’s action Monday was an unequivocal affirmation of USADA’s evidence-gathering and conclusions.
In announcing the decision, McQuaid said the testimony of Salt Lake City native David Zabriskie, a U.S. Postal Service teammate of Armstrong’s from 2001 to ’05, left him particularly “sickened.”
Cycling had been Zabriskie’s refuge. It wasn’t just an escape but a wholesome rejection of the world of drug and alcohol addiction that destroyed his father, who died in 2000 as a result. It was a world he hated and one he vowed he’d never be part of.
But as a 23-year-old rising star on Armstrong’s team, Zabriskie was presented with an injectable performance-enhancing blood-booster known as EPO by the team’s director and doctor in 2003 and instructed how to take it for maximum effect.
“I was devastated. I was shocked. I had never used drugs and never intended to,” Zabriskie recounted on his Web site in an essay titled “Truth or Consequences” summarizing the testimony he provided to USADA earlier this year.
Zabriskie’s affidavit — recounting his initial resistance to doping; his fears of not being able to have children and undergoing freakish physical changes; his feeling of being cornered by team management; and his ultimate surrender to the pressure to dope, told that “everyone is doing it” by U.S. Postal’s team director Johann Bruyneel — proved among the more damning narratives in the 1,000-page legal dossier that Monday gave the UCI unequivocal grounds to banish the sport’s once iconic champion.