Lance Armstrong stripped of Tour de France titles by UCI at last

Saddled with shame: Cycling's snivelling chief still in denial over culture of cheating that has infested his sport

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UPDATED:

22:37 GMT, 22 October 2012

Cycling's world governing body are willing to accept that Lance Armstrong is a doping cheat. Hallelujah.

The UCI made it sound as radical a discovery as finding human life on Pluto rather than a belated admission from an organisation who — and we are being generous here — were complacent as the greatest fraud in sporting history unfolded before them.

Pat McQuaid, the snivelling, self-preserving president, said: ‘The UCI will ban Lance Armstrong from cycling and the UCI will strip him of his seven Tours de France titles. Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. He deserves to be forgotten.’

Shamed: Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his titles after the UCI endorsed the USADA sanctions

Shamed: Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his titles after the UCI endorsed the USADA sanctions

In fact, he was stripped of those
titles, ranging from 1999 to 2005, by the US Anti-Doping Agency in
August. The UCI were merely ratifying USADA’s legitimate act.

McQuaid spoke in Geneva as though he
was shocked by USADA’s findings. Shocked He could only be shocked if he
was blind, wilfully perhaps, to accusations that have been prevalent
for a decade. During McQuaid’s seven-year presidency, former US Postal
rider Frankie Andreu told the New York Times that doping was taking
place during Armstrong’s first Tour de France victory in 1999.

Self-preserving: President Pat McQuaid spoke as if he was shocked

Self-preserving: President Pat McQuaid spoke as if he was shocked

Then Armstrong’s former team-mate
Floyd Landis sent McQuaid, among others, emails detailing the drug
culture two years ago. But 63-year-old Irishman McQuaid tore into the
whistle-blowers and brushed their accusations under the Axminster.

Even as late as last month, McQuaid’s
fire was turned on USADA for their handling of the investigation into
Armstrong. The UCI barely twitched an eyebrow at the accusations.

‘We thought USADA were better
prepared,’ sniffed McQuaid, chiding them for taking so long to compile
their dossier. In the end the report amounted to 200 pages with 800
pages of appendices. It was a thorough job that soon made McQuaid look
ridiculous.

Banned: Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour titles by the USADA, but claims he was the victim of a 'witch hunt'

Banned: Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour titles by the USADA, but claims he was the victim of a 'witch hunt'

It also left him with no choice other than to display faux outrage on Monday.

He talked of the UCI ‘always having a
commitment to fight doping’, adding with a flourish: ‘If I have to
apologise now on behalf of the UCI what I will say is that I am sorry we
couldn’t catch every damn one of them red-handed and throw them out of
the sport.’

If he really possessed principle, he
would have resigned for having cried calumny against the accusers when
he should have launched an investigation.

Britain’s David Millar, a
self-confessed doper turned World Anti-Doping Agency activist, said:
‘The UCI always denied there was a problem and even now they are denying
they had knowledge of it, and that’s the next big step.’

McQuaid, a former teacher and road
cyclist, is the first paid UCI president. He took the job in 2005 at the
behest of Hein Verbruggen, his predecessor who is now honorary
president. The two men are said to be joined at the hip.

It is notable that the last
undoubtedly clean Tour victory until recent years, that of Greg LeMond
in 1990, came one year before Verbruggen took charge of the UCI. All
Armstrong’s wins came under his stewardship.

Not so magnificent seven: Armstrong's wins have been erased from the Tour de France record books

Not so magnificent seven: Armstrong's wins have been erased from the Tour de France record books

Support: Cyclists gathered to listen to Armstrong's address at the start of the annual Team Livestrong Challenge in Austin on Sunday

Support: Cyclists gathered to listen to Armstrong's address at the start of the annual Team Livestrong Challenge in Austin on Sunday

Oakley cut ties with Armstrong

Lance Armstrong has lost the support of another major sponsor after Oakley severed their ties with the disgraced cyclist.

The brand confirmed in a statement they were ending their relationship with the Texan in the wake of the announcement in Geneva.

Oakley have followed in the footsteps of Nike, Trek and Anheuser-Busch, brewers of Budweiser, who have all withdrawn their support for Armstrong.

An Oakley statement read: 'Based on UCI's decision today and the overwhelming evidence that USADA presented, Oakley has severed its long-standing relationship with Lance Armstrong, effective immediately.

'When Lance joined our family many years ago, he was a symbol of possibility. We are deeply saddened by the outcome, but look forward with hope to athletes and teams of the future who will rekindle that inspiration by racing clean, fair and honest.

'We believe the LIVESTRONG Foundation has been a positive force in the lives of many affected by cancer and, at this time, Oakley will continue to support its noble goals.'

Armstrong has stepped down from his position as chairman of his cancer charity.

But McQuaid blithely insisted the UCI
had no case to answer over alleged payments made to them by Armstrong
and associated companies, adding that a defamation action against
journalist Paul Kimmage, who made claims of hush-money changing hands,
would go ahead as planned.

Verbruggen is an honorary member of
the IOC, McQuaid is on the IOC’s evaluation committee for the 2020 Games
and cycling is an important Olympic sport. Yet the IOC have yet to
comment meaningfully on the Armstrong affair.

They say they will await the UCI’s
management committee meeting on Friday, when the issue of whether to
redistribute the Tour titles and the prize money will be resolved. Fine,
but the IOC should then act decisively.

Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, is a
man of integrity. But he is also a friend of Verbruggen, a personal
association that should not be allowed to interfere with what is right.

They would do well to heed the words
of the one hero of this tawdry episode, USADA chief executive Travis
Tygart, who said: ‘For cycling to move forward and for the world to
know what went on in cycling, it is essential that an independent and
meaningful Truth and Reconciliation Commission be established.

‘There are many more details of doping
that are hidden, many more doping doctors, and corrupt team directors
and the ‘omerta’ (within the peloton) has not yet been fully broken.
Sanctioning Lance Armstrong and the riders who came forward truthfully
should not be seen as penance for an era of pervasive doping. There must
be more action to combat the system that took over the sport.’

Away from Geneva, Armstrong lost
another sponsor, Oakley, who followed the lead set by Nike, Trek and
Budweiser brewers, Anheuser-Busch. In Armstrong’s home state of Texas,
insurance company SCA Promotions have demanded the return of a bonus
worth up to 5million paid after he won his sixth Tour in 2004.

And yet on his Twitter account, how was Armstrong styling himself on Monday night As the seven-time Tour winner, of course.

Ex-doper: David Millar (right) says there needs to be change

Ex-doper: David Millar (right) says there needs to be change