Cycling: UCI set to deliver verdict on Lance Armstrong

 

The Lance Armstrong doping scandal reaches a decisive point today as the UCI, cycling's world governing body, reveals whether it has ratified the United States Anti-Doping Agency's decision to ban the American for life and strip him of his seven Tour de France titles.

In August, Armstrong, 41, announced he would no longer fight USADA's charges against him, describing their investigation as a "witch hunt".

The agency promptly responded by issuing the American with his lifetime ban and taking away his record number of tour titles.

Two weeks ago USADA published a 1,000-page report which alleged Armstrong and his US Postal Service team had been guilty of "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen".

It included testimony from 11 of Armstrong's former team-mates, who were all handed six-month bans.

The UCI had until the end of October to respond to the report and today president Pat McQuaid will announce whether they accept the findings and thus rubber-stamp Armstrong's punishment, or reject them and take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

The content of USADA's report has left cycling in a beleaguered state as it faces the biggest crisis in its history, even greater than the uproar created by the Festina scandal of 1998.

Should Armstrong, viewed by many as the sport's greatest champion and renowned for his work in fighting cancer, see his punishment confirmed it will be the darkest of days.

Armstrong has always protested his innocence, but has lost support from some of his major sponsors since USADA's report was made public.

Nike, Trek and Anheuser-Busch all severed their ties with Armstrong, while Oakley are reviewing their position. Armstrong has also stepped down from his position as chairman of his cancer charity, Livestrong.

He made his first public appearance on Friday at the organisation's 15th anniversary celebration, telling a 1,700-strong gathering: "I am truly humbled by your support.

"It's been an interesting couple of weeks. It's been a difficult couple of weeks for me and my family, my friends and this foundation.

"I say, 'I've been better, but I've also been worse'."

In the continuing fallout from the publication of USADA's report, Dutch bank Rabobank have also withdrawn from the sport after 17 years as a team sponsor.

PA

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