Courtesy of The New York Times
The International Cycling Union announced Monday that it would not appeal the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s ruling to bar Lance Armstrong for life from Olympic sports for doping and for playing an instrumental role in the team-organized doping on his Tour de France-winning cycling squads.
That decision to waive the right to take Armstrong’s case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the highest court in sports, formally stripped Armstrong of the seven Tour titles he won from 1999 to 2005.
“Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling; he deserves to be forgotten in cycling,” Pat McQuaid, the president of the cycling union, known as U.C.I., said in a news conference 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 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. He added that he was sorry the cycling union had not caught Armstrong and his teammates “red handed” so he could have thrown them out of the sport.
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 short biography on his Twitter page, he still calls himself the seven-time Tour de France winner.
The antidoping agency applauded the cycling union’s acceptance of the penalties the agency gave Armstrong in August, when Armstrong gave up fighting his case. Back then, the cycling union was 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 there were “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.
The World Anti-Doping Agency now has the opportunity to appeal Usada’s decision, and its officials said they were still in the process of reviewing the evidence.
The cycling union’s announcement delivered yet another devastating blow to Armstrong, who has unceremoniously fallen from grace within the past two weeks.
Last week he stepped down as the chairman of Livestrong, his cancer foundation, and lost nearly all of his sponsors, including Nike and the Trek bicycle company. Oakley sunglasses, one of the companies that had been with Armstrong the longest, announced Monday that it was dropping him, too.
Also, the International Olympic Committee is reviewing Armstrong’s case and will probably 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 millions of dollars in prize money he won at the Tour.
McQuaid said the management committee of the cycling union would meet on Friday to discuss the ramifications of Armstrong’s downfall, including if and how Armstrong would repay prize money and how the cycling union would handle the standings at the Tours he won. He said the committee also would discuss the possible repayment of prize money by Armstrong’s former teammates who provided testimony in the antidoping agency’s case and confessed their own 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.”
McQuaid also disputed accusations that the cycling union covered up positive drug tests for Armstrong or took bribes from him, calling those claims absolutely untrue.
The decision to strip Armstrong of his Tour victories has also created legal problems for him. One is that SCA Promotions, an insurance company based in Dallas, is trying to recoup $9.5 million in performance bonuses it covered when Armstrong won Tour after Tour.
The company withheld a $5 million 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 that money returned, along with the other $4.5 million in bonuses, for a total of $12 million.
“Once he loses those titles, in our minds, he’s not entitled to those payments,” Jeffrey M. Tillotson, a lawyer for the company, said. “We’re sending a demand letter to him, which I’m sure he’ll throw away. But fair is fair. We want our money back.”