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Disgraced Armstrong asked to return Tour de France prize money

October 26, 2012 -- Updated 1815 GMT (0215 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cycling's governing body ask Lance Armstrong to return all his Tour de France prize money
  • Disgraced cyclist had his seven Tour de France victories struck off due to doping
  • UCI opt not to reassign Armstrong's titles in what it calls a "dark period"
  • It also decides to suspend its legal action against journalist Paul Kimmage

(CNN) -- Lance Armstrong has been asked to return all prize money from his seven annulled Tour de France victories by the sport's governing body, who confirmed the history books will show no winner of the famous race between 1999-2005.

The disgraced American operated "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen," according to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

At a meeting at their Swiss headquarters, the International Cycling Union (UCI) also announced an independent commission would examine its handling of the Armstrong case.

The 41-year-old is still to comment on claims he consistently used performance enhancing drugs throughout his career, though he has decided not to contest the case.

Read: Ex-Tour champ LeMond calls for UCI boss to quit

In a written response, Armstrong's office asserts that witness testimony to USADA is contradictory to prior testimony; that witnesses testified only after Armstrong decided not to contest the USADA proceeding; and that USADA offered sweetheart deals to active riders in exchange for their testimony.

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But the UCI is determined to pursue him for the riches he received as a result of his seven straight victories in cycling's most prestigious race, while confirming the record books will be left blank.

A statement on the UCI's official website read: "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 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.

"The International Cycling Union (UCI) has asked Lance Armstrong to return all the prize money he won from his seven Tour de France victories, that have been struck off due to allegations of doping.

"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."

The UCI and its president Pat McQuaid has come under fire for not picking up Armstrong's doping, despite testing him over 200 times.

Read: Armstrong's demise: How an all-American hero fell to earth

There are also question marks about a $100,000 donation from Armstrong to the UCI in 2002, revealed in USADA's report, but McQuaid insists there was no cover up in regard to Armstrong's activities.

Former Tour de France winner Greg LeMond called on McQuaid and the UCI's honorary president Hein Verbruggen to resign over their handling of the case.

He said the pair had abused their power and that cycling would not be able to move on unless they were to quit. The UCI declined to comment on the story when contacted by CNN.

The UCI has asked Lance Armstrong to return all the prize money he won from his seven Tour de France victories
UCI statement

LeMond's views were echoed by Scott Mercier, a former cyclist with the U.S. Postal Service team before Armstrong joined them, who claims he quit the sport after being asked to use banned substances.

He told CNN: "The sport is going to have some tough times and I think there needs to be a leadership change for it to really be able to move forward.

"The leadership needs to be held accountable; if you look at the business world the CEO would either resign or be fired. The management committee did not do that. It is still the same guys who were there during this and I don't think it's nearly enough."

The UCI said it would soon appoint a fully independent external commission that would look into the role it played during the Armstrong affair and report no later than June next year.

It has also decided to suspend legal action against former Sunday Times journalist Paul Kimmage who accused them, as well as Quaid and Verbruggen, of corruption, until after the commission reports.

McQuaid said in the same UCI statement that it was "determined to turn around this painful episode in the history of our sport."

"We will take whatever actions are deemed necessary by the independent Commission and we will put cycling back on track," he added.

"Today, cycling is a completely different sport from what it was in the period 1998-2005. 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."

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