The Tour de France races from 1999 to 2005 will have no winners attributed to them, embattled world cycling officials announced on Friday, ordering doping-tainted icon Lance Armstrong to repay his prize money.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) this week effectively erased Armstrong from the cycling history books when it decided not to appeal sanctions imposed on the American by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
A damning report by USADA last week concluded that Armstrong helped orchestrate the most sophisticated doping program in the history of sport.
An UCI management committee on Friday “acknowledged that decisive action was needed in response to the report.”
Armstrong will now lose all of his results from 1998, the year he resumed racing after successfully battling cancer, and a year before the first of his seven consecutive yellow-jersey wins from 1999 to 2005.
“With respect to Lance Armstrong and the implications of the USADA sanctions which it endorsed on Monday 22 October, the management committee decided not to award victories to any other rider or upgrade other placings in any of the affected events,” the UCI said.
“The committee decided to apply this ruling from now on to any competitive sporting results disqualified due to doping for the period from 1998 to 2005, without prejudice to the statute of limitation,” it said.
The UCI added: “The committee also called on Armstrong and all other affected riders to return the prize money they had received.”
It is estimated that Armstrong earned prize money of 2.95 million euros (US$3.81 million) for his Tour de France victories.
The UCI justified its decision not to re-attribute podium spots on the Tour as a point of principle.
“The UCI management committee acknowledged that a cloud of suspicion would remain hanging over this dark period — but that while this might appear harsh for those who rode clean, they would understand there was little honor to be gained in reallocating places,” it said.
Tour de France organizers later said that the UCI’s decision reflected their own.
“This decision is entirely consistent with the wishes already expressed 10 days ago by the organizers of the event,” a brief statement said.
The UCI, whose president, Pat McQuaid, and his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, have come under increasing scrutiny over their stance on doping, also announced the establishment of an independent external commission “to look into the various allegations made about UCI relating to the Armstrong affair.”
“The committee agreed that part of the independent commission’s remit would be to find ways to ensure that persons caught for doping were no longer able to take part in the sport, including as part of an entourage,” it said.
A report and recommendations from this commission are expected to be published no later than June 1 next year.
Pending those findings, the UCI froze its legal case for defamation against Irish journalist Paul Kimmage, the former Sunday Times reporter who accused the body of corruption.
“UCI is determined to turn around this painful episode in the history of our sport,” McQuaid said. “We will take whatever actions are deemed necessary by the independent commission and we will put cycling back on track.”
“Today, cycling is a completely different sport from what it was in the period 1998 to 2005. Riders are now subject to the most innovative and effective anti-doping procedures and regulations in sport. Nevertheless, we have listened to the world’s reaction to the Lance Armstrong affair and have taken these additional decisive steps in response to the grave concerns raised,” he added.
Meanwhile, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said it backed the UCI’s decision to create an independent review commission.
“As an independent body itself, WADA supports the decision to set up an independent external commission to examine the problem of doping in cycling,” a WADA statement said.
“The most important thing is for this issue to be dealt with once and for all, and WADA looks forward to the release of further details on the commission’s make-up and terms of reference,” it said.