PARIS, (Reuters) – The Lance Armstrong doping scandal reaches a decisive day today when cycling’s governing body announces whether it has ratified the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s sanctions but whatever happens the affair is set to run and run.
International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid will hold a news conference at 1100 GMT today at which he is widely expected to confirm that Armstrong, 41, is banned for life and loses his record seven Tour de France titles.
Last month, McQuaid said the UCI had no reason to appeal against the USADA decision, adding that the ruling body was waiting to read the reasoned decision and case file published after Armstrong elected not to fight the charges.
The USADA report, released last week, is a 1,000 page document which shows, the Agency says, that Armstrong took part in a doping scheme on his way to his unrivalled success on the Tour from 1999-2005.
The report accused Armstrong, as head of the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team, of running “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
It included sworn testimony from 26 people, including 15 riders, who described years of performance drug use.
If the UCI rules that USADA has failed to make a case, the sport’s governing body will take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Should Armstrong lose his Tour titles, race director Christian Prudhomme has already said he does not want them handed to anyone else given that the era was tainted by doping.
The UCI, however, is in an uncomfortable position because the USADA report said Armstrong told his then team mates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton he made a positive drugs test at the Tour of Switzerland “go away” with a payment to the UCI in 2001.
McQuaid has said Armstrong made a $100,000 donation to the UCI in 2002 but “vehemently denied”, according to the report, that it was part of a covering up of a positive test.
Armstrong said he was unfazed by the USADA report but some of his long-time partners have been, with Nike Inc dropping the disgraced cyclist over the scandal on Wednesday. On the same day, Armstrong stepped down as chairman of the Livestrong foundation, although he remained on the board of the association he launched in 1997 to fight cancer.
Testicular cancer survivor Armstrong was also dropped by beer maker Anheuser-Busch, and, according to reports by ESPN, by Trek Bicycles and the energy drink maker FRS.
Speculation over a confession by Armstrong has been growing although he could face perjury charges if he admitted to doping during his career.
The Texan is also likely to face financial consequences if the UCI ratifies the USADA decision.
Promotional company SCA, which paid $7.5 million to Armstrong after he provided sworn evidence he did not use performance-enhancing drugs, could seek to recoup the money.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper, which lost $1 million in an out-of-court settlement following a libel suit, could sue the American.
Armstrong mentor Johan Bruyneel’s case, however, will not be resolved on Monday because the Belgian has chosen to fight the charges in front of an arbitration panel, possibly later this year. Doctor Pedro Celaya, one of the five people charged by USADA, has also opted for arbitration.
Doctors Luis Garcia del Moral, Pepe Marti and Michele Ferrari, who were also charged by USADA, have been banned for life.
Former Armstrong team mates who testified were given reduced bans.
Those still active will be back in time for the 2013 Tour de France, whose route will be unveiled on Wednesday as cycling’s wheel continues to turn with or without Armstrong.