Armstrong Stripped Of Titles, Banned From Cycling
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
And this is now history with an asterisk.
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UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Is there any stopping Lance Armstrong in this Tour de France? And the answer is, no, there is not.
BLOCK: Lance Armstrong racing there in 2004, sprinting to one of many victorious stage finishes in the Tour de France. Well, today came this announcement from bicycle racing's international governing body.
PATRICK MCQUAID: UCI will ban Lance Armstrong from cycling, and UCI will strip him of his seven Tour de France titles. Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling.
BLOCK: That's the president of the International Cycling Union, Pat McQuaid. The organization decided not to appeal the sanctions imposed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. That agency released a scathing report 12 days ago, describing what it called a massive doping program involving Armstrong and his teammates. NPR's Tom Goldman reports now on today's decision.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Today's announcement came early. The UCI had until October 31 to respond to the USADA report. The decision not to appeal was not particularly surprising to longtime cycling journalist Charles Pelkey. He notes the report included potentially incriminating information about the UCI itself.
CHARLES PELKEY: I think that would have probably gotten an even bigger spotlight had they appealed it.
GOLDMAN: In fact, the UCI's culpability during the apparent rampant doping era recounted in the report is an issue going forward. More on that in a minute. For now, though, the headline-grabbing news is this: The seven Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005 that defined Lance Armstrong's career will go poof in the record books. Armstrong's lawyer was in trial today and not commenting. Armstrong's agent was out of the office. Armstrong himself had no public comment.
Back in August, when USADA first announced its sanctions, Armstrong said, quote, "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. The toughest event in the world where the strongest man wins," Armstrong said, "nobody can ever change that."
Perhaps not, but that doesn't mean there won't be consequences to losing the titles. The Tour de France, reportedly, is considering whether to take back Armstrong's tour winnings. Also, he was involved in past legal battles that were resolved with Armstrong winning millions of dollars. Now, those who lost that money may try to recover it.
Beyond Armstrong - and there is a beyond Armstrong in this story - is the matter of the UCI and whether cycling's governing body really was governing during what appears to be a doping-soaked era in which Armstrong competed. At today's press conference, the UCI's Pat McQuaid defended his organization's anti-doping efforts.
MCQUAID: What was available to the UCI at that time to confront situations like this was much more limited compared to what is there now. And if we had the tools, which we have now, available to us, this sort of activity wouldn't go on.
PELKEY: I assume you need a response that could go out over the air.
GOLDMAN: What cycling journalist Charles Pelkey says, without salty language, is this.
PELKEY: He's right only in the sense that medical technology is more sophisticated now. He's absolutely wrong in the fact that the most damning evidence in this case came from witness testimony. And he and the rest of the UCI chose to ignore the witness testimony that was offered to them on a silver platter even back as far as 2002.
GOLDMAN: Some have called for McQuaid and other UCI officials to resign, but McQuaid said today he has no intention of doing so. The UCI management board is scheduled to meet this Friday to discuss, among other things, what to do about the now-vacant Tour de France titles from '99 to 2005. The Tour director recommends the winning positions be left blank as a testament to the era. Tom Goldman, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.