Monday, October 22, 2012
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The decision to waive the right to take Armstrong’s case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the highest court in sports, formally strips Armstrong of the Tour titles he won from 1999 to 2005.
“Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling; he deserves to be forgotten in cycling,” Pat McQuaid, president of the cycling union, said in a news conference Monday in Switzerland. “Something like this must never happen again.”
McQuaid said he was “sickened” by the facts in the 202-page report the antidoping agency made public two weeks ago regarding the evidence it had in the Armstrong case, and called it mind-boggling how former teammates like the five-time national time trial champion David Zabriskie were pushed to use performance-enhancing drugs.
McQuaid said the report showed that Armstrong’s teams had a “win at all costs” attitude fueled by “deceit, intimidation, coercion and evasion,” and that all of the evidence was there to prove that Armstrong doped.
Armstrong, who has vehemently denied ever doping, declined to comment Monday. But in the past he said that he, his teammates and those riders who competed against him would always know he won those seven Tours. In his biography on his Twitter page, he still calls himself the seven-time Tour de France winner.
The antidoping agency applauded the cycling union’s recognition and implementation of the penalties it gave Armstrong in August, when Armstrong gave up fighting his case. Back then, the cycling union was still battling to gain jurisdiction over the matter.
“Today, the U.C.I. made the right decision in the Lance Armstrong case,” Travis Tygart, the antidoping agency’s chief executive, said in a statement. “Despite its prior opposition to Usada’s investigation into doping on the U.S. Postal Service cycling team and within the sport, Usada is glad that the U.C.I. finally reversed course in this case and has made the credible decision available to it.”
Tygart said there was still more to do to clean up cycling because “many more details of doping that are hidden, many more doping doctors, and corrupt team directors and the omerta has not yet been fully broken.” He called for immunity to be given to riders who come forward and confess their doping, so the sport can learn from its mistakes and move forward.
The World Anti-Doping Agency now has the opportunity to appeal Usada’s decision, and its officials said it was still in the process of reviewing the evidence.
Even so, the cycling union’s announcement Monday delivered yet another devastating blow to Armstrong, who has unceremoniously fallen from grace within the past two weeks.
Last week he stepped down as chairman of his Livestrong charity and lost nearly all of his sponsors, including Nike and Trek Bicycles. Oakley sunglasses, one of the companies that had been with him the longest, announced Monday that they were dropping him, too.
The International Olympic Committee is reviewing Armstrong’s case and will most likely strip him of the bronze medal he won at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Christian Prudhomme, the Tour’s race director, said at a news conference Monday that he no longer considered Armstrong a Tour champion and that the Amaury Sport Organization, the company that organizes the Tour de France, would erase Armstrong’s name from its record books.
He added that the runners-up should not be elevated in the standings because of the prevalent doping that occurred during that period in the sport.
“Those dark years must be marked by the absence of a winner,” he said.
Prudhomme characterized Armstrong as “a true talent who strayed” and “played with fire,” and said he would like Armstrong to repay the prize money he won at the Tour, which is in the millions of dollars.
But the cycling union will make the final decision on that.
McQuaid said the management committee of the cycling union would meet Friday to discuss the ramifications of Armstrong’s downfall, including if and how Armstrong would repay the prize money he won during that time and how the cycling union would handle the standings at those Tours. He said the committee also would discuss the possible repayment of prize money by Armstrong’s teammates who admitted doping.
“A lot of these guys made a lot of money out of their cheating,” McQuaid said. “A lot have admitted they cheated and apologized to their family and friends, but they have not apologized to the U.C.I. or the sport.”
Regarding the black mark the scandal leaves on cycling, McQuaid apologized that they could not catch every single one of them “red-handed and throw them out of the sport.”
McQuaid denied that the cycling union had anything to do with covering up tests that Armstrong supposedly had failed, calling accusations “absolutely untrue” that the organization went out of its way to protect Armstrong, its biggest star.
The decision to strip Armstrong of his Tour victories has also created potential additional legal problems for Armstrong. SCA Promotions, an insurance company based in Dallas, will look into recouping the performance bonuses it covered when Armstrong won Tour after Tour.The company withheld a bonus for Armstrong’s winning the 2004 Tour after a French book claimed he had doped and cheated to win. Armstrong sued the company to force it to pay him that bonus. The two parties reached a settlement, with the insurance company paying Armstrong $7.5 million — and now SCA Promotions wants it back.