Lance Armstrong. (Photo by Riccardo S. Savi/Getty Images)
Brent Schrotenboer, USA TODAY Sports
The Lance Armstrong doping case finally appears to be over.
His seven titles in the Tour de France will be stripped and vacated.
The famed cyclist also will be banned for life in sanctioned Olympic sports.
After receiving the massive evidence file compiled against Armstrong on Oct. 10, the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced Monday that it would not appeal the sanctions imposed upon the cyclist in August by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
By rule, UCI had the right to appeal those sanctions to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, even though Armstrong himself had declined to go to arbitration to fight the charges. But on Monday, UCI said it was declining to do so -- a decision that is likely the final official word on the subject after years of accusations and investigations.
"Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling," UCI president Pat McQuaid said at a press conference.
The World Anti-Doping Agency also holds the right to appeal the sanctions but that is not expected as WADA has been a staunch supporter of USADA's actions to date.
The Tour de France is a sanctioned event of UCI, the sport's international governing body, meaning it is now bound by rule to strip Armstrong's seven titles from 1999 to 2005. Tour officials previously said they would do so barring an appeal by UCI, but also said no replacement winner will be named for those years.
One likely reason? Doping was so rampant throughout the Armstrong era that most of the other top finishers also have been implicated or confessed to doping.
UCI's decision is not surprising, given the scope of the evidence in the USADA case file, but the news still marks another blow for Armstrong, whose last realistic shot at keeping his titles was an appeal fought by a group he has maintained close ties to over the years. Indeed, in his unsuccessful efforts in federal court to challenge USADA''s jurisdiction, Armstrong argued that it was UCI that had the authority to review the evidence against him.
USADA and UCI also have not seen eye-to-eye on the Armstrong case. UCI previously has been critical of USADA's actions, questioning the fairness of its process -- repeating an argument Armstrong has made relentlessly -- and even trying to take over the investigation at one point.
USADA said in July that such a take-over would be like "the fox guarding the hen house."
In a testy exchange of letters last summer, USADA noted UCI's history of lax oversight when it was in charge of anti-doping enforcement, an era now viewed as dominated by doping. USADA also accused UCI of being overly friendly with Armstrong, pointing out that the cyclist previously had given donations to UCI of as much as $200,000.
Included in the evidence file is the sworn statement of former cycling teammate Tyler Hamilton, who testified that Armstrong tested positive for EPO at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland but that Armstrong told him he was going to have a meeting with UCI "and everything was going to be OK" -- an alleged cover-up that the UCI has denied.
In the end, UCI couldn't ignore the amount of evidence, especially the 26 witnesses who told investigators that Armstrong was a leader and key figure in a long-running team doping conspiracy. On Oct. 10, USADA released more than a 1,000 pages of details that told how Armstrong and his teammates used banned drugs and blood transfusions to boost performance while also using sophisticated means to avoid testing positive.
The evidence persuaded almost all of Armstrong's sponsors to terminate their relationship with him, including Nike and Trek, which made the bikes Armstrong rode to his seven Tour victories. One holdout sponsor, sunglasses company Oakley, said last week it was awaiting UCI's decision before determining if it would continue its sponsorship of Armstrong.
Armstrong also announced Wednesday he would step down as chairman of Livestrong, the cancer-fighting charity he founded, but said he would remain active in the group and appear at its events.
He did that over the weekend at Livestrong's 15th anniversary celebration in his hometown of Austin, Texas, but Armstrong avoided discussing the USADA evidence and loss of his sponsors.
Instead, he encouraged attendees to keep up their work in support of Livestrong and allowed that, for him, it had been a "difficult couple of weeks."