Bicycle racing's world governing body, the International Cycling Union, has stripped star American cyclist Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour De France titles and banned him for life, ratifying the sanctions imposed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency two months ago.
Though Lance Armstrong has denied it for years, the evidence was overwhelming that he had used illegal performance-enhancing substances to help him win a record seven-straight Tour De France titles from 1999-2005.
The International Cycling Union says it agreed to the penalties levied on Armstrong by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency after reviewing USADA's 1,000-page report of evidence uncovered in its investigation
of the 41-year-old retired cyclist.
UCI president Pat McQuaid announced the decision Monday at a news conference in Geneva.
"This is a landmark day for cycling. Cycling has indeed endured a lot of pain as it has absorbed the impact of the USADA report," he said.
That report included testimony from 11 former teammates that revealed Armstrong not only used banned performance-enhancing drugs, but he also pressured his teammates to use them and bullied those who tried to go against him.
When USADA released its lengthy report two weeks ago, its chief Travis Tygard had these remarks.
"Their stories are sad and they are chilling, but they are overly powerful," said Tygard.
USADA labeled it "a massive fraud now more fully exposed." Tygard said USADA learned that Armstrong and the cycling teams he led used the blood booster EPO, testosterone, corticosteroids and transfused blood.
"It paints an undeniable web of, unfortunately, the deepest and the most sophisticated professionalized drug program that we have ever seen a team run," he said.
But there is no mistaking that Armstrong and his teammates were not alone. Nearly all of the cyclists from other teams who stood on those seven Tour de France podiums with him have been tainted with charges of illegal drug use, as were many others who competed against him through the years.
McQuaid said it is a culture he has been committed to fight since becoming UCI president in 2005.
"Cycling's changed a lot since then. What was available to the UCI at that time to confront situations like this was much more limited, compared to what is there now. And if we had the [drug testing] tools which we have now available to us, this sort of activity would not go on," said McQuaid.
McQuaid said he believes that as tainted as it has been, the sport of cycling has a future.
"This is not the first time cycling has reached a crossroads, or that it has had to begin anew, and to engage in the painful process of confronting its past. It will do so again with renewed vigor and purpose, and its stakeholders and fans can be assured that it will find a new path forward," said McQuaid.
Last week Armstrong lost a number of high-profile sponsors in response to the USADA report, and he resigned as chairman of Livestrong, the charity he founded more than a decade ago to raise money for cancer research after surviving testicular cancer.
Armstrong has not yet responded to UCI's decision. The International Olympic Committee has yet to announce whether it will strip Armstrong of the cycling time-trial bronze medal he won at the 2000 Sydney Summer Games.
July 25, 1999: Lance Armstrong wins his first Tour de France, pictured riding down the Champs Elysees with teammates in Paris.
August 1999: Bicyclists roll down Congress Ave. in Austin, Texas, where Armstrong currently lives, during a parade held in his honor.
July 23, 2000: Armstrong wins his second Tour de France, the second American to repeat as champion since Greg LeMond won in 1989 and 1990.
July 29, 2001: Lance Armstrong (right) on the podium next to second-placed Jan Ullrich of Germany, after winning the Tour de France for the third time.
July 6, 2002: Armstrong undergoes medical examinations ahead of the 2002 Tour de France race in Luxembourg.
July 26, 2002: Armstrong at the start of the 18th stage of the Tour de France. Teammate Floyd Landis is second right.
July 28, 2002: Armstrong wins his fourth consecutive Tour de France.
July 27, 2003: Lance Armstrong with his wife Kristin, his son Luke and his twin daughters Isabelle Rose and Grace Elizabeth, signaling five (for the number of Tours de France he has won).
July 25, 2004: Armstrong becomes the first person to win six Tour de France titles.
July 25, 2004: Armstrong greets fans after the race on the Champs Elysees avenue in Paris.
July 24, 2005: Lance Armstrong wins his seventh straight Tour de France race.
August 23, 2005: The French sports daily l'Equipe reports Lance Armstrong used the performance-enhancing drug EPO to win his first Tour de France title in 1999, a claim he immediately denied.
August 25, 2005: Armstrong appears on CNN's "Larry King Live" with Bob Costas to discuss recent allegations of doping.
November 5, 2006: Lance Armstrong (picured in green) runs the New York City Marathon, his first.
September 2008: Armstrong announces he is ending a three-year cycling retirement and aims for an eighth Tour de France victory.
January 20, 2009: Armstrong races in the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, his first since resuming his professional cycling career.
July 25, 2009: Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, Alberto Contador of Spain, and Lance Armstrong, left to right, cross the finish line during the 20th stage of the Tour de France.
July 10, 2010: Lance Armstrong rides in the pack during his final Tour de France.
June 28, 2012: Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde and David Zabriskie struck a deal with the US anti doping agency to admit to using doping and to give evidence against Armstrong.
October 17, 2012: Lance Armstrong announces he is stepping down as chairman of his Livestrong cancer-fighting charity so the group can focus on its mission instead of its founder's problems.
The move came a week after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a massive report detailing allegations of widespread doping by Armstrong and his teams when he won the Tour de France seven times from 1999 to 2005.
Lance Armstrong stands onstage during the 15th anniversary celebration for the Livestrong charity, October 19, 2012, in Austin, Texas. Armstrong said he has been through a "difficult couple of weeks" and urged supporters of the charity to stand behind its mission.