The American cyclist Lance Armstrong has been stripped of all seven of his Tour de France titles, the International Cycling Union said today.
The decision means the governing body accepted the evidence of doping presented by United States Anti-Doping Agency, which said Armstrong not only used performance enhancing drugs to achieve his titles, but he was also the heart of "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
"Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling," UCI president Pat McQuaid said according to the BBC. McQuaid also announced that Armstrong would be banned from the sport for life and the No. 1 spot for those years would remain empty in the record books.
That means that when people look at the record books, the winner's slot will be empty from 1999 to 2005.
"That's something many people say is a telling testament to the doping that was considered widespread during that time," NPR's Tom Goldman told our Newscast unit.
NBC News reports it also in line with what USADA recommended. NBC News reports:
"The agency said 20 of the 21 riders on the podium in the Tour from 1999 through 2005 have been 'directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations' or other means. It added that of the 45 riders on the podium between 1996 and 2010, 36 were by cyclists 'similarly tainted by doping.'
"Armstrong spoke briefly Sunday at start of his Livestrong charity's fund-raiser bike ride, telling the crowd he's faced a 'very difficult' few weeks. But he did not otherwise mention USADA's report detailing evidence of performance-enhancing drug use by Armstrong and his teams or the sanctions.
"'I've been better, but I've also been worse,' Armstrong, a cancer survivor, told the crowd in Austin, Texas, repeating a line from his remarks at Livestrong's 15th anniversary celebration Friday night."
In the past few weeks, Armstrong was also dropped by many sponsors, including Nike, and he also stepped down as head of Livestrong, the cancer charity he founded.
Update at 7:50 a.m. ET. Chance For One More Appeal:
The New York Times reports that the World Anti-Doping Agency has 21 days to decide whether to appeal UCI's decision. If it chooses not to, it would mark the end of a long-running, often controversial case.
The paper also points out that this decision will likely mean a whole lot of legal trouble for Armstrong. For example, "SCA Promotions, a Dallas-based insurance company, will likely start the process of trying to recoup the bonus money it awarded Armstrong for winning Tour after Tour."