Cycling: Tour list to remain blank

The seven Tour de France titles stripped from Lance Armstrong will not be awarded to any riders, and the disgraced American and his team-mates should return their prize money, cycling's governing body has ruled.

Acknowledging "a cloud of suspicion would remain hanging over this dark period," the UCI said the list of Tour winners will remain blank for the years from 1999 to 2005. "This might appear harsh for those who rode clean [but] they would understand there was little honour to be gained in reallocating places," the UCI said after a board meeting in Geneva.

The UCI said Armstrong and "all other affected riders" in the case should return their prize money. That amounts to almost US$4 million in Tour money from Armstrong.

Meanwhile, a Dallas promotions company that paid Armstrong more than US$7 million in bonuses for winning the Tour de France is demanding he return the money. A spokesman for SCA Promotions said the company will send Armstrong a demand letter now that his titles have been revoked. The company paid Armstrong about US$7 million for winning his sixth tour in 2004 and reportedly paid up to US$12 million in total. Armstrong attorney Sean Breen declined to comment.

The UCI's decision not to award Armstrong's Tour victories to other riders was welcomed in a statement from the Tour de France's organisers."This decision fully coincides with the wishes expressed by the organisers of the race 10 days ago."

The UCI also ordered an independent outside investigation to examine allegations about the UCI's own conduct and relations with Armstrong raised by the US Anti-Doping Agency report that detailed systematic cheating by the Texan and his team-mates.

The UCI has been accused of accepting $125,000 from Armstrong to cover up suspicious doping tests. Riders and officials will also be targeted.

"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," the UCI said. That move prompted a statement from John Fahey, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

"As an independent body itself, WADA supports the decision to set up an independent external commission to examine the problem of doping in cycling," Fahey 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."

A potentially explosive defamation suit filed by the UCI, its president Pat McQuaid and predecessor Hein Verbruggen against Irish journalist and former Tour rider Paul Kimmage is on hold. Kimmage was scheduled to defend his claims at a December hearing that cycling's leaders protected Armstrong. Kimmage has received more than US$70,000 in donations from cycling fans to fight his case.

Armstrong's expulsion was confirmed this week when the UCI acknowledged the USADA findings that his teams ran "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."

An "independent sports body" will be chosen by UCI within two weeks to nominate members of the advisory panel, which is scheduled to report back by June 2013.As well as leaving the Tour winner's list blank from 1999-2005, the UCI agreed "not to award victories to any other rider or upgrade other placings in any of the affected events." Other stage-race titles lost by Armstrong include the 2001 Tour of Switzerland and Dauphine Libere in 2002 and 2003.

The UCI did not directly address the status of Armstrong's Olympic time trial bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Games, which could be stripped by the International Olympic Committee.

Further revelations of doping are expected in an Italian prosecutor's probe into sports doctor Michele Ferrari, who was identified by USADA as a central figure in the doping programmes for Armstrong and the US Postal Service team. Ferrari was banned from sport for life by USADA after he chose not to contest its findings.

USADA chief executive Travis Tygart has urged the UCI to pursue more doping investigations.

- AP

- Herald on Sunday

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