The reverberations from the U.S. Doping Agency’s allegations that American Lance Armstrong was a key figure in an elaborate doping ring continue to resonate around the world of cycling. Armstrong has lost fans and sponsors through the months-long ordeal, and on Monday, he lost his greatest accomplishments as a professional athlete: all seven of his Tour de France titles. As Liz Clarke reported:
In an unequivocal affirmation of the U.S. Doping Agency’s actions against Lance Armstrong, cycling’s international governing body on Monday stripped the American sporting icon of his record seven Tour de France titles and banned him from competition for life.
In announcing the decision at a news conference in Geneva, Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Federation (UCI), was unstinting in his condemnation of the pattern of doping, deceit and bullying that USADA had documented as explaining Armstrong’s success and characterizing his fraudulent career.
“Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling, and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling,” said McQuaid, a former competitive cyclist himself, at a news conference. “This is a landmark day for cycling.”
UCI had little option but to concur, given the breadth and depth of the evidence USADA compiled, based largely on first-hand accounts of 11 former Armstrong teammates. Had it disputed the agency’s more than 1,000-page report, whether on the merits or over matters of jurisdiction, Armstrong’s disciplinary fate would have been appealed to the Council for Arbitration in Sport.
But with its vehement concurrence, UCI effectively snuffed out any hope of Armstrong to salvage his cycling achievements or the iconic status that won him millions or followers, and earned him millions in corporate endorsements, since winning the first of his seven consecutive Tour de France championships in 1999.
The UCI’s decision to accept the USADA’s recommendation that Armstrong should be banned for life and stripped of his titles has understandably left the former U.S. cycling hero shaken. Yet Armstrong remains grateful for the backing of his dwindling supporters. As Cindy Boren wrote:
Pat McQuaid, president of the UCI, said that the group would not pursue an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling,” McQuaid said at a news conference in Geneva. “This is a landmark day for cycling.” Tour de France organizers can now officially remove Armstrong’s victories from 1999-2005 from the record books. Christian Prudhomme, Tour director, indicated that the race would comply with the UCI decision and will list no winners for those seven Tours.
“We’ve come too far in the fight against doping to go back to the past,” McQuaid said. “Something like this must never happen again.”
Armstrong has denied doping but chose in August to drop his fight against drug allegations. On Oct. 10, the United States Anti-Doping Agency released its report, in which it said that Armstrong led “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
“I’ve been better, but I’ve also been worse,” Armstrong, in his first public comments, told participants in a bike ride for his Livestrong cancer charity in Texas. Armstrong, a survivor of testicular cancer, stepped down as the head of Livestrong last week, shortly before he was dropped by Nike and other corporate sponsors. Today, his final remaining sponsor, Oakley, severed ties with him.
“The mission is bigger than me, it’s bigger than any individual,” Armstrong said at a celebration of Livestrong’s 15th anniversary. ”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.”
Like Armstrong’s sponsors, his former coach, Johan Bruyneel is trying to distance himself from the embattled cyclist. Bruyneel has also been charged for his involvement in doping with Armstrong’s former team, RadioShack. As the Associated Press reported:
Johan Bruyneel intends to fight charges he was a central figure in doping programs within Lance Armstrong’s teams provided his defense hasn’t been “permanently prejudiced” by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s accusations.
Bruyneel, Armstrong’s former manager, was a key figure in USADA’s report what it says was systematic doping on the American cycling teams he oversaw. While Armstrong chose not to contest the USADA charges, Bruyneel is opting for arbitration.
“I will continue to be involved in legal proceedings relating to USADA’s proposed charges as long as I believe that I am still able to receive a fair hearing,” Bruyneel, who left RadioShack-Nissan team last week, said in a statement Thursday.
The Belgian said he is “still stunned” at the charges leveled at him by USADA and will provide a “balanced account of events” after his defense is heard.
Meanwhile, the RadioShack team announced that Luca Guercilena would replace Bruyneel as team manager.
Guercilena, who has been serving as sports director, will now have overall responsibility for the Luxembourg-based team.
“This team has gone through some rough weather, but even the hardest stages come to an end,” he said. “I have talked at length with the team owner and with the title sponsors, and all parties are convinced of the new direction for the team. We want to be a solid and stable team that gets noticed for its results.”
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