Lance Armstrong stripped of 7 Tour de France titles

  • U.S. cyclist Lance Armstrong is interviewed in Austin, Texas, on Friday, Feb. 15, 2011. UCI, the cycling governing body, agreed on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles. (AP Photo/Thao Nguyen)U.S. cyclist Lance Armstrong is interviewed in Austin, Texas, on Friday, Feb. 15, 2011. UCI, the cycling governing body, agreed on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles. (AP Photo/Thao Nguyen)
  • Pat McQuaid, president of the Union Cycliste Internationale, presents the position of the UCI regarding the decision from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency  in the case of Lance Armstrong, during a press conference in Geneva on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. UCI, cycling's governing body, has agreed to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and ban him for life. (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)Pat McQuaid, president of the Union Cycliste Internationale, presents the position of the UCI regarding the decision from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in the case of Lance Armstrong, during a press conference in Geneva on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012. UCI, cycling's governing body, has agreed to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and ban him for life. (AP Photo/Keystone, Salvatore Di Nolfi)
  • Cyclist Lance Armstrong stands onstage during the 15th anniversary celebration for Livestrong, his cancer-fighting charity, on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, in Austin, Texas. Joining him are members of Livestrong's staff, many of whom are cancer survivors. Armstrong said he has been through a "difficult couple of weeks" and urged supporters of the charity to stand behind its mission. "The mission is bigger than me. It's bigger than any individual," Armstrong said in opening remarks at the celebration. (AP Photo/Livestrong, Elizabeth Kreutz)Cyclist Lance Armstrong stands onstage during the 15th anniversary celebration for Livestrong, his cancer-fighting charity, on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012, in Austin, Texas. Joining him are members of Livestrong's staff, many of whom are cancer survivors. Armstrong said he has been through a "difficult couple of weeks" and urged supporters of the charity to stand behind its mission. "The mission is bigger than me. It's bigger than any individual," Armstrong said in opening remarks at the celebration. (AP Photo/Livestrong, Elizabeth Kreutz)
  • Cyclist Lance Armstrong speaks at the Livestrong Challenge Austin bike ride on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Austin, Texas. Armstrong greeted about 4,300 cyclists at his Livestrong charity's fundraiser, then retreated into privacy as cycling officials got set to announce if they will appeal his lifetime ban and loss of seven Tour de France titles ordered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)Cyclist Lance Armstrong speaks at the Livestrong Challenge Austin bike ride on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Austin, Texas. Armstrong greeted about 4,300 cyclists at his Livestrong charity's fundraiser, then retreated into privacy as cycling officials got set to announce if they will appeal his lifetime ban and loss of seven Tour de France titles ordered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
  • Bike riders begin their 100-mile ride in the Livestrong Challenge Austin charity event on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Austin, Texas. Cyclist Lance Armstrong greeted about 4,300 cyclists at his charity's fundraiser and then retreated into privacy as cycling officials got set to announce if they will appeal his lifetime ban and loss of seven Tour de France titles ordered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)Bike riders begin their 100-mile ride in the Livestrong Challenge Austin charity event on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Austin, Texas. Cyclist Lance Armstrong greeted about 4,300 cyclists at his charity's fundraiser and then retreated into privacy as cycling officials got set to announce if they will appeal his lifetime ban and loss of seven Tour de France titles ordered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
  • Riders wait at the starting gate at the Livestrong Challenge Austin bike ride on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Austin, Texas. Lance Armstrong greeted about 4,300 cyclists at his Livestrong charity's fundraiser and then retreated into privacy as cycling officials got set to announce if they will appeal his lifetime ban and loss of seven Tour de France titles ordered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)Riders wait at the starting gate at the Livestrong Challenge Austin bike ride on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Austin, Texas. Lance Armstrong greeted about 4,300 cyclists at his Livestrong charity's fundraiser and then retreated into privacy as cycling officials got set to announce if they will appeal his lifetime ban and loss of seven Tour de France titles ordered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
  • Riders begin their 100-mile ride at the Livestrong Challenge Austin charity event on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Austin, Texas. Lance Armstrong greeted about 4,300 cyclists at his Livestrong charity's fundraiser and then retreated into privacy as cycling officials got set to announce if they will appeal his lifetime ban and loss of seven Tour de France titles ordered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)Riders begin their 100-mile ride at the Livestrong Challenge Austin charity event on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Austin, Texas. Lance Armstrong greeted about 4,300 cyclists at his Livestrong charity's fundraiser and then retreated into privacy as cycling officials got set to announce if they will appeal his lifetime ban and loss of seven Tour de France titles ordered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
  • A cyclist starts off on his 100-miles ride at the Livestrong Challenge Austin charity event on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Austin, Texas. Lance Armstrong greeted about 4,300 cyclists at his Livestrong charity's fundraiser and then retreated into privacy as cycling officials got set to announce if they will appeal his lifetime ban and loss of seven Tour de France titles ordered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)A cyclist starts off on his 100-miles ride at the Livestrong Challenge Austin charity event on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, in Austin, Texas. Lance Armstrong greeted about 4,300 cyclists at his Livestrong charity's fundraiser and then retreated into privacy as cycling officials got set to announce if they will appeal his lifetime ban and loss of seven Tour de France titles ordered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. (AP Photo/Michael Thomas)
  • Cyclist Lance Armstrong holds the winner's trophy after claiming his seventh straight Tour de France race during ceremonies on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on July 24, 2005, after the 21st and final stage of the race between Corbeil-Essonnes, south of Paris, and the French capital. UCI, the cycling governing body, agreed on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles. (AP Photo/Bernard Papon, Pool)Cyclist Lance Armstrong holds the winner's trophy after claiming his seventh straight Tour de France race during ceremonies on the Champs-Elysees in Paris on July 24, 2005, after the 21st and final stage of the race between Corbeil-Essonnes, south of Paris, and the French capital. UCI, the cycling governing body, agreed on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles. (AP Photo/Bernard Papon, Pool)
  • Seven-time Tour de France cycling champion Lance Armstrong of the United States is pictured during a stop on the third day of training with team Astana in Adelaide, Australia, on Jan. 14, 2009. UCI, cycling's governing body, agreed on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles. (AP Photo/Aman Sharma, file)Seven-time Tour de France cycling champion Lance Armstrong of the United States is pictured during a stop on the third day of training with team Astana in Adelaide, Australia, on Jan. 14, 2009. UCI, cycling's governing body, agreed on Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles. (AP Photo/Aman Sharma, file)
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GENEVA — Seven lines of blanks. From 1999 to 2005. There will be no Tour de France winner in the record book for those years.

Once the toast of the Champs-Elysees, Lance Armstrong was formally stripped of his seven Tour titles Monday and banned for life for doping.

As far as the Tour is concerned, his victories never happened. He was never on the top step of the podium. The winner’s yellow jersey was never on his back.

The decision by the International Cycling Union marked an end to the saga that brought down the most decorated rider in Tour history and exposed widespread cheating in the sport.

Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling, and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling,” said Pat McQuaid, president of the governing body. “Make no mistake, it’s a catastrophe for him, and he has to face up to that.”

It’s also devastating for Tour de France organizers, who have to carve seven gaping holes from the honor roll of the sport’s biggest event and airbrush Armstrong’s image from a sun-baked podium on the Champs-Elysees.

No more rides through Paris for the grim-faced cancer survivor bearing the American flag. No champagne. From the sport’s perspective, it’s all gone.

“We wish that there is no winner for this period,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme said Monday in Paris. “For us, very clearly, the titles should remain blank. Effectively, we wish for these years to remain without winners.”

Armstrong’s fiercely defended reputation as a clean athlete was shattered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency two weeks ago, when it detailed evidence of drug use and trafficking by his Tour-winning teams. USADA released its report to show why it orderedArmstrong banned from competition back in August. Monday’s judgment by the UCI was just the necessary next legal step to formalize the loss of his titles and expel him from the sport.

It will likely also trigger painful financial hits for Armstrong as race organizers and former sponsors line up to reclaim what are now viewed as his ill-gotten rewards, though the cyclist maintains he never doped.

Prudhomme wants Armstrong to pay back prize money from his seven wins, which the French cycling federation tallied at €2.95 million ($3.85 million). Armstrong also once was awarded $7.5 million plus legal fees from Dallas-based SCA Promotions Inc., which tried to withhold paying a bonus for the rider’s 2004 Tour victory after it alleged he doped to win.

The U.S. government could also get involved in a case brought by Floyd Landis, who was key to taking down his illustrious former teammate by turning whistleblower in 2010.

The losses pile up for a man who dedicated himself to victory, over other cyclists and the cancer that almost killed him in 1996.

Neither Armstrong nor his representatives had any comment about Monday’s decision, but the rider was defiant in August when he chose not to fight USADA in one of the agency’s arbitration hearings. He argued the process was rigged against him.

“I know who won those seven Tours, my teammates know who won those seven Tours, and everyone I competed against knows who won those seven Tours,” Armstrong said then. “The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins. Nobody can ever change that.”

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