By Barry Janoff
October 22, 2012: The International Cycling Union, the governing body that oversees cycling worldwide, has upheld a decision by the U.S. Anti-Doping Association's move to strip Lance Armstrong of all of his titles — including seven consecutive Tour de France victories — and to also ban him from the sport for life.
However, while accepting blame for what Armstrong himself claimed was as many as 600 drug tests that he passed, the group — known internationally as the Union Cycliste International — said that testing must continue to evolve and challenged other groups that also oversaw drug testing in sports during the time Armstong was active to issue their own reports.
According to a statement released today by the UCI, the organization "confirms that it will not appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and that it will recognize the sanction that USADA has imposed."
The UCI statement specifically pointed to the evidence that the USADA mounted against Armstrong. (See the full statement here.)
The USADA's report included sworn statements from 26 witnesses, including 11 former teammates. The association banned Armstrong from cycling for life and decreed that 14 years of his career results, including the Tour de France wins from 1999-2005, be erased.
Armstrong also won a bronze medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, which could be stripped if the International Olympic Committee moves to do so.
Armstrong has vehemently denied the use of any prohibited substances, claiming that he never tested positive in upward of 600 drug tests he took during his pro career. He won most of his Tour de France competitions while riding for a team under the lead sponsorship of the U.S. Postal System.
According to its statement, the "UCI has tested Lance Armstrong 218 times. If Lance Armstrong was able to beat the system then the responsibility for addressing that rests not only with the UCI but also with [World Anti-Doping Agency] and all of the other anti-doping agencies who accepted the results."
Regarding the testing of Armstrong, the UCI stated, "That process extends beyond the UCI, and the anti-doping agencies including WADA, USADA, AFLD [the French Anti-Doping Agency] and CONI [the Italian National Olympic Committee] must contribute to it by also examining how many times they tested Lance Armstrong and by providing their own explanation for why he never tested positive in the tests that they respectively conducted.
The USADA issued its report and sanctions on Oct. 10. Since then, the majority of Armstrong's marketing partners have either severed ties or said they plan not to renew contracts with him. That includes Nike, Anheuser-Busch's Michelob Ultra, RadioShack, 24 Hour Fitness and Trek.
Armstrong earned about $15 million in endorsements in 2011, according to industry analysts. He also earned more as a speaker at corporate, sports and other events.
Most of the companies also are aligned with LiveStrong, the foundation started by Armstrong to raise awareness and funds in the fight against cancer and have said they would continue to support the organization. Armstrong has resigned as chairman but will remain on its board of directors.
Oakley eyewear, which had said it would await a ruling from the UCI, today officially cut ties with Armstrong.
“Based on UCI’s decision today and the overwhelming evidence that USADA presented, Oakley has severed its longstanding relationship with Lance Armstrong, effective immediately,” the company wrote in a statement. “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.”
The UCI said their decision supported the move by the USADA but also brings to light that tests to prevent athletes from cheating must continue to evolve.
"[The UCI has] recognized the problem of doping within the sport and taken significant steps to confront the problem and to clean up cycling."
"Their testimony confirms that the anti-doping infrastructure that existed at that time was, by itself, insufficient and inadequate to detect the practices taking place within the team," the UCI said of the athletes who were quoted in the USADA report. "The UCI has always been the first international sporting federation to embrace new developments in the fight against doping and it regrets that the anti-doping infrastructure that exists today was not available at that time so as to render such evasion impossible.
"The decision explains how riders on the USPS Team showed no inclination to share the full extent of what they knew until they were subpoenaed or called by federal investigators and that their only reason for telling the truth is because the law required them to do so."
UCI stressed that these riders have "confronted their past and told their stories. Their accounts of their past provide a shocking insight into the USPS Team where the expression to ‘win at all costs’ was redefined in terms of deceit, intimidation, coercion and evasion. Many of the USPS Team riders have already acknowledged that the culture of cycling has now changed and that young riders today are no longer confronted with the same choices to use performance enhancing drugs. They are right to do so."
The UCI said that it has "recognized the problem of doping within the sport and taken significant steps to confront the problem and to clean up cycling. Today’s riders are subject to the most innovative and effective anti-doping procedures and regulations in sport. Cycling has been a pioneer in the fight against doping in sport under the leadership of the UCI and this role has been recognized by WADA."
UCI oversees cycling events that include road, track,, mountain biking, cyclo-cross, BMX, indoor cycling and para-cycling.
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