Thursday, February 22, 2018
Sports

Lance Armstrong will be stripped of his Tour de France glory

The champagne toasts on the Champs-Elysees and the "V" for victory signs he flashed while pedaling to the finish line clad in yellow, the jersey of the Tour de France leader.

The excruciating mountain climbs and the explosions of power that pushed him past other heaving cyclists on narrow Alpine roads.

Faded images are all that remain of Lance Armstrong's unprecedented cycling career.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency erased the rest of it on Friday.

It wiped out 14 years of Armstrong's career — including his record seven Tour de France titles — and barred him for life from the sport after concluding he used banned substances.

USADA said it expected cycling's governing body to take similar action, but the International Cycling Union was measured in its response, saying it first wanted a full explanation of why Armstrong should relinquish Tour titles he won from 1999 through 2005.

Armstrong, who retired a year ago and turns 41 next month, said Thursday he would no longer challenge USADA. He denied again that he ever took banned substances in his career, calling USADA's investigation a "witch hunt" without any physical evidence.

USADA chief executive Travis Tygart described the investigation as a battle against a "win-at-all-cost culture," adding that the UCI was "bound to recognize our decision and impose it."

That would leave Greg Le-Mond as the only American to win the Tour de France, having done so in 1986, 1989 and 1990.

USADA, which announced its investigation in June, said its evidence came from more than a dozen witnesses "who agreed to testify and provide evidence about their firsthand experience and/or knowledge of the doping activity of those involved in the USPS conspiracy," a reference to Armstrong's former U.S. Postal Service cycling team.

In all, USADA said up to 10 former Armstrong teammates were set to testify against him.

Armstrong has consistently pointed to the hundreds of drug tests that he passed as proof of his innocence.

His success helped sell millions of the "Livestrong" plastic bracelets and enabled him to promote cancer awareness and research, raising nearly $500 million since his Lance Armstrong Foundation was started in 1997.

Foundation officials said they remained "proud" of Armstrong and had received hundreds of messages of support from donors, partners and supporters since his announcement. Among them was Nike Inc., which said it planned to continue supporting Armstrong and the foundation.

If Tour de France officials follow USADA's lead and announce that Armstrong has been stripped of his titles, Jan Ullrich could be promoted to champion in three of those years. Ullrich was stripped of his third-place finish in the 2005 Tour and retired from racing two years later after being implicated in another doping scandal.

The retired German racer expressed no desire to rewrite the record book of cycling's greatest event, even though he would be the biggest beneficiary.

"I know how the order was on the finishing line at the time," Ullrich said. "I've finished with my professional career and have always said that I was proud of my second-place finishes."

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