The downfall of Lance Armstrong is almost complete: today the UCI, cycling's governing body, stripped the American of all seven Tour de France titles and banned him for life in the wake of a damning report from USADA that gave evidence of a long-term doping programme that explained what had previously been regarded by many as a success story.
The 41-year-old, whose unprecedented dominance in cycling has been exposed as a grand deception if the findings of USADA stand, continues to insist that he never cheated. Sponsors, fans and others appear no longer to believe him, Armstrong ever more isolated as those who previously supported him walk away.
The USADA report included testimony from several former teammates who competed alongside Armstrong as he won the sport's most coveted title every year from 1999 to 2005. Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has confirmed that the Tour will have no official winners for those years of shame, Armstrong among many who doped at the time, the UCI unable to unmask the deception.
The federation today responds to USADA's insistence that Armstrong be banned and stripped of his Tour titles for "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen" within his US Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams.
UCI President Pat McQuaid today announced that the federation accepted USADA's report and would not appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The relevance to all sport is clear. Swimming federations and the athletes they represent continue to list Armstrong as "an inspiration". Many will feel a need to revisit those biographies, duped as those inspired were by Armstrong, along with many others. Certain sections of the media were not taken in and pursued Armstrong for many years. David Walsh, of the Sunday Times, and Paul Kimmage, formerly of the same paper and now writing for The Independent and others, were at the helm of research dating back to 2003 that would ultimately contribute to Armstrong's downfall.
Longtime sponsors Nike, Trek Bicycles and Anheuser-Busch have dropped the former cyclist, while Armstrong stepped down last week as chairman of Livestrong, the cancer awareness charity he founded 15 years ago after surviving testicular cancer which spread to his lungs and brain.
The story of his astonishing return from life-threatening illness to the summit of his sport was inspirational but he duped his way to a powerful public profile, one that placed him in a position to do good charitable works, one that was described by USADA as "one of the most sordid chapters in sports history.
While the UCI's decision is welcome today it comes not a moment too soon: the federation was left with little choice but to accept the inevitable truth after years of falling short of proper investigation into Armstrong and its sport as a whole. USADA's report says that 20 of the 21 riders on the podium in the Tour from 1999 through 2005 had been "directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations" or other means; 45 riders on the podium between 1996 and 2010, 36 were by cyclists "similarly tainted by doping".
There could be more to come from Armstrong: he could yet lose his 2000 Olympic time-trial bronze medal and may be pursued in civil law by ex-sponsors and the US Government
USADA's case also implicates Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari and longtime coach and team manager Bruyneel. Ferrari and another medical official, Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral, have received lifetime bans.
Bruyneel, team doctor Pedro Celaya and trainer Jose "Pepe" Marti are taking their cases to arbitration, while the Court of Arbitration in Lausanne could now call Armstrong as a witness.