Downfall of King Lance
Disgraced Lance Armstrong's fate was sealed yesterday as cycling's under-fire world governing body decided to back a life ban for doping and strip him of his record seven Tour de France titles.
The International Cycling Union said it supported the US Anti-Doping Agency's decision to erase the rider's entire career, with the union's president, Pat McQuaid, calling the scandal "the biggest crisis" the sport had ever faced.
"We will not appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and we will recognise the sanction that [the agency] has imposed," McQuaid said in Geneva.
He said he had been "sickened" by the revelations. "The UCI will strip him of his seven Tour de France wins. Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. He deserves to be forgotten in cycling."
Earlier this month, the US body released a devastating dossier on Armstrong, detailing in 202 pages with more than 1000 pages of supporting testimony how he was at the heart of the biggest doping programme in the history of sport. The revelations, including evidence from 11 of his former team-mates, plunged the sport into a crisis.
After conceding defeat in his fight to contest the charges against him in August, the Texan's world caved in further yesterday.
The decision leaves Armstrong's sporting legacy in tatters, but for all his detractors, there have been just as many admirers.
For his supporters, the doping allegations pale in comparison with his battle with life-threatening cancer and the work of his charitable foundation, which he founded to help others living with the disease.
Doctors had given Armstrong a less than 50% chance of survival when he was diagnosed in 1996 with testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain.
He persevered through surgery and chemotherapy and returned to cycling, but was little known in his homeland when he won his first Tour de France title in 1999.
His years of dominance in the sport raised cycling's profile in the US to new heights and gave him a platform to promote cancer awareness and research. The Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised almost $500-million since it was created in 1997.
But in the aftermath of the allegations, several top sponsors, including Nike, dropped Armstrong and he resigned as chairman of Livestrong.
Even in his glory days of cycling, many were sceptical of his powers. In 1999, it was a trace amount of a banned corticosteroid, which cycling officials explained away by saying he was authorised to use a small amount of cream containing the drug to treat saddle sores.
The head of the US anti-doping body called yesterday for a truth commission to uncover drug cheats in cycling, saying punishing Armstrong was not nearly enough to restore its credibility.
"It is essential that an independent, meaningful, truth and reconciliation commission be established so the sport can fully unshackle itself from the past," said Travis Tygart, chairman of the body.
In a further blow Armstrong was yesterday asked to repay a $7.5-million bonus paid to him by an insurance company after his sixth Tour 'win' in 2004.