Armstrong has no place in cycling - McQuaid


CYCLING DOPING SCANDAL:JUST OVER four years after Lance Armstrong announced his return to cycling and his intention to add to a record haul of seven Tour de France titles – putting that run of successes further beyond the reach of future race winners – the Texan saw his achievements obliterated yesterday.

Cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, acted to confirm the US Anti Doping Agency’s earlier sanctions, namely the stripping of all results since August 1998 and a lifetime ban from the sport. Their president, Pat McQuaid, confirmed the body would not contest Usada’s decision, thus sealing Armstrong’s fate.

It was a humiliating outcome for the 41-year-old, who had earned over $100 million during his career and, at his height, enjoyed the adulation of millions due to his comeback from testicular cancer and his work for the Livestrong Foundation.

It also marked an about turn for the UCI, who championed his comeback four years ago, seeing it as a way to boost cycling’s profile and to recapture an American TV market which had faded after Armstrong’s retirement.

All such sentiments were far from the mind of McQuaid yesterday. “The UCI will ban Lance Armstrong from cycling and the UCI will strip him of his seven Tour de France titles,” he told a packed conference hall in Geneva, Switzerland. “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling.”

Earlier this summer McQuaid questioned Usada’s jurisdiction in the case, claiming the UCI, rather than the agency, should rule in the matter.

That issue was settled by a federal court in Texas, but the UCI still had the right to appeal Usada’s sanctions to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

That now won’t happen, leaving Wada as the only body which can prevent Armstrong’s career downfall. However, although that agency said yesterday they would study the details of the case prior to making a decision, it is thought unlikely they will act in the matter.

So often one to attack from the peloton or in the media, Armstrong had not commented at the time of writing.

His Twitter account was also silent, with the last update dating back to October 17th when he announced he was standing down from his position of chairman of the Livestrong Foundation. Since then he’s been hit by several blows, including the withdrawal of most of his personal sponsors. The last of the big name brands departed yesterday with eyewear manufacturer Oakley finally deciding enough was enough and cutting ties.

Given it was the company which paid for his cancer treatment in 1996 via their insurance policy, it was a significant development. The oldest, most loyal of his backers, had called it quits after nearly two decades.

In truth, those sponsors paid little attention to the whispers about Armstrong over the years, defending him when allegations were made against him at various points in time.

He was still an asset then, still perceived as a winner. But the Usada evidence finally proved too strong, with the allegations of personal doping use being overshadowed by the testimony of former team-mates who said he had encouraged and coerced them to also used banned substances.

McQuaid referred to one of those yesterday, saying the tale of Dave Zabriskie was one he found particularly shocking. The time trial specialist had testified he was badgered into using banned substances in his third year with the US Postal Service team, giving into pressure despite having promised himself he’d never cross that line.

His own father had died due to the effects of recreational drugs, but Zabriskie’s determination to steer clear of pharmaceuticals was overcome by the culture on the team and the twisted influence of general manager Johan Bruyneel.

“That account was mind-blowing and sickening,” said McQuaid yesterday. “I find it very hard to understand that went on, but I accept it did go on.”

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