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Can the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency strip Lance Armstrong of his Tour de France titles?


lance armstrong

REUTERS Lance Armstrong chose not to pursue an arbitration hearing where he could have fought charges brought by U.S. anti-doping officials that his teams doped when he won the Tour from 1999-2005.

The organizers of the Tour de France say they will wait to see what happens before commenting on Lance Armstrong’s case.

Armstrong said Thursday that he would not pursue arbitration in the doping case brought against him by USADA, causing his seven Tour de France titles to be stripped Friday by the American agency.

But the International Cycling Union says it wants USADA to explain why Armstrong should lose his titles before commenting on the case.

The sport’s governing body said it expects USADA to submit documents “to the parties concerned,” as the case threatens to wipe a cycling icon almost out of the record books.

“The UCI recognizes that USADA is reported as saying that it will strip Mr. Armstrong of all results from 1998 onwards in addition to imposing a lifetime ban from participating in any sport which recognizes the World Anti-Doping Code,” the Switzerland-based organization said in a statement.

“As USADA has claimed jurisdiction in the case the UCI expects that it will issue a reasoned decision” explaining the action taken, the UCI said, adding that legal procedures obliged USADA to fulfill this demand in cases “where no hearing occurs.”

Armstrong has chosen not to pursue an arbitration hearing where he could have fought charges brought by U.S. anti-doping officials that his teams doped when he won the Tour from 1999-2005.

MORE:If Lance Armstrong loses his Tour de France titles, who gets them?

The UCI and USADA have engaged in a turf war over who should prosecute allegations against Armstrong.

Armstrong disputes that USADA has power to re-write cycling results, and uncertainty remains over what role the ASO sports promotion company which organizes the Tour de France will have in the process.

Armstrong insisted his decision to decline arbitration was not an admission of guilt, but a refusal to enter a process he believes is unfair.

“Lance has never withdrawn from a fair fight in his life so his decision today underlines what an unjust process this has been,” Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong’s longtime coach, wrote on his personal website on Friday.

Still, USADA chief executive Travis Tygart said the UCI was “bound to recognize our decision and impose it” as a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code.

USADA maintains that Armstrong used banned substances as far back as 1996, including the blood-booster EPO and steroids, as well as blood transfusions.

The agency also claims to have blood tests from 2009 and 2010 which were “fully consistent” with doping, at a time when Armstrong was monitored by the biological passport program run by the UCI.

USADA wants to annul all Armstrong’s race results from August 1998. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he won a bronze medal in the road time trial.

The International Olympic Committee said Friday it will await decisions by the U.S. agency and UCI before taking any steps against the rider.

Even if Armstrong loses the legal battle, the UCI would still be able to regard him as its 1993 world champion in the men’s road race in Oslo, Norway.

MORE:Lance Armstrong saga, long and boring: Smith

In Huesca, Spain, Alberto Contador declined to comment on the possibility of Armstrong being stripped of his Tour de France titles, and instead paid tribute to his former teammate’s skill on the bike.

Contador, who hesitantly partnered Armstrong during the first year of the American’s comeback in 2009 with Astana, said he had kept his distance from the case.

“I’m not up to date on the case. Whenever I’m competing at a major race I try to keep these things to the margin and stay completely focused on the race,” Contador said Friday before the start of the seventh stage of the Spanish Vuelta. “I don’t know if it’s over or not. The truth is I’m not thinking about it.”

Contador and Armstrong were bitter teammates during the seven-time Tour champion’s return to cycling after a three-year hiatus, with Contador eventually emerging as the team No. 1 on his way to winning the Tour that season. Armstrong, who came third, moved to Radioshack the next season.

Still, the Spanish cyclist, who was stripped of his 2010 Tour victory because of drug charges, was polite in describing the 40-year-old Armstrong’s abilities on the bike after having once described their relationship as “zero.”

“I think he was a cyclist who always showed such strength, great intelligence and spectacular physical conditioning,” said Contador, who is third overall at the Vuelta.

thestar.com – Sports