The International Cycling Union (UCI), the world ruling body of professional cycling, has upheld sanctions against retired U.S. cyclist Lance Armstrong, stripping him of the record seven Tour de France titles that he won between 1999 and 2005.
"Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling," UCI chief Pat McQuaid announced.
The ruling comes after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) issued an extensive report -- including around 1,000 pages of testimony -- charging Armstrong with leading "the most sophisticated, professionalized, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
The abuses came during years when Armstrong was cycling’s most dominant rider.
The USADA report said Armstrong and his teams used steroids, the blood booster EPO and blood transfusions to give them an edge over other cyclists. The report contained statements from 11 former teammates who testified against Armstrong about drug use.
Speaking shortly after the UCI announcement, Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said Armstrong is no longer considered a seven-time winner of the race.
Prudhomme also reiterated his belief that there should be no new champions declared for the seven Tours that Armstrong had won.
He said, "we wish for these years to remain without winners," adding that Armstrong's third place in the 2009 Tour should also "disappear."
Prudhomme says Armstrong's prize money from the seven Tours should also be reimbursed.
The USADA report gives an indication of the massive extent to which doping has allegedly taken place in the endurance sport.
The report recommends that no other riders who finished behind Armstrong be awarded his Tour de France titles. It says at least 20 of the 21 riders who finished in the Tour’s top three from 1999 through 2005 have been directly tied to likely doping.
Lost Sponsorship Deals
Armstrong on October 21 said the last few weeks have been “very difficult.”
“Obviously, it's been an interesting, and as I said the other night, at times very difficult few weeks," Armstrong told participants at a bike ride for his Livestrong cancer charity in Austin, Texas. "People ask me a lot, 'How you doing?' and I tell them, I say, 'Well, I've been better, but I've also been worse'. And so with that I'll leave you to have a great ride today. Please be safe. Thank you for your support. 4,300 riders -- the largest ride in Austin's history."
Besides his Tour de France victories, Armstrong has also been stripped of all his other titles and banned for life from professional cycling.
Since the revelations in the USADA report, he has lost sponsorship deals with the Nike sports-equipment company and beer-brewing giant Anheuser-Busch.
He also resigned as chairman of Livestrong, known for the distinctive yellow wristbands worn by its supporters, which has helped raise hundreds of millions of dollars to fight cancer in the past 15 years.
Armstrong won the Tour de France -- cycling’s most prestigious race -- an unprecedented seven straight times from 1999-2005.
The victories made Armstrong, who survived cancer before beginning the streak, one of the world’s most recognized and celebrated athletes.
Charges that Armstrong has used performance-enhancing drugs have dogged the 41-year-old American from the state of Texas throughout his career.
Armstrong has always denied doping, pointing to hundreds of passed drug tests. But in August he announced he was quitting his fight against the USADA, saying the process was biased against him.
In 1996, Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain. He successfully underwent surgery and chemotherapy, and subsequently used his fame to promote cancer awareness and to raise money for charities that support cancer victims.
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP