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Armstrong falls from grace

Lance Armstrong – from hero to zero.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency erased 14 years of Lance Armstrong’s career today – including his record seven Tour de France titles – and banned him for life from the sport that made him a hero to millions of cancer survivors after concluding he used banned substances.

USADA said it expected cycling’s governing body to take similar action, but the International Cycling Union was measured in its response, saying it first wanted a full explanation on why Armstrong should relinquish Tour titles he won from 1999 through 2005.

The Amaury Sport Organization that runs the world’s most prestigious cycling race said it would not comment until hearing from the UCI and USADA, which contends the cycling body is bound by the World Anti-Doping Code to strip Armstrong of one of the most incredible achievements in sports.

Armstrong, who retired a year ago, said yesterday that he would no longer challenge USADA and declined to exercise his last option by entering arbitration. He denied again that he ever took banned substances in his career, calling USADA’s investigation a “witch hunt” without a shred of physical evidence. He is now officially a drug cheat in the eyes of his nation’s doping agency.

“Any time we have overwhelming proof of doping, our mandate is to initiate the case through the process and see it to conclusion as was done in this case,” said USADA chief executive Travis Tygart, who couched the investigation as a battle against a “win-at-all-cost culture.”

Tygart said the UCI was “bound to recognize our decision and impose it.”

“They have no choice but to strip the titles under the code,” he said. (AP)

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