PARIS (AFP) — European cycling federations, race organizers and former riders on Monday broadly welcomed a decision to ban Lance Armstrong for life and scrub his record for doping, including his seven straight Tour de France titles.
Vuelta a España organizer Javier Guillen told Agence France Presse he believed the move by the UCI showed that no cyclist, not even one with Armstrong’s reputation, was above the law.
“I feel the reaction of the UCI sits properly with the seriousness of the facts,” said Guillen.
“We now have to stress that nobody is above the law and it is time to write a new page for cycling, as I hope this affair marks the turning of the page for the old cycling.”
Guillen noted that it was difficult to see how Armstrong’s wins could be re-attributed to another rider, as many of those who made the podium in the era when the Texan reigned supreme have also been implicated in the doping web.
But he said he was convinced that “cycling can and must come back from this affair.”
Belgian Cycling Federation head Tom Van Damme told broadcaster VRT that the ruling was “the only verdict” given the scope and scale of Armstrong’s doping, which USADA called the biggest in the history of sport.
Van Damme said the UCI now had to bolster trust in its procedures to restore confidence, saying “for a good while now the UCI has been accused from all sides — doubtless wrongly” of having somehow gone along with Armstrong, amid claims he donated cash to the organization’s anti-doping effort to allegedly cover-up a positive test.
“New measures against doping are necessary. Certain doctors in the peloton must be banned so cycling can make a fresh start,” he said.
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme described the Armstrong Affair as a “global crisis,” calling for all of Armstrong’s entourage to be punished and reaffirming that he should repay his estimated 2.95 million euros of Tour winnings.
German Cycling Federation president Rudolf Scharping also welcomed the UCI decision, saying it was the only “logical” course of action.
But former Spanish rider Oscar Pereiro, who won the 2006 Tour de France after U.S. rival Floyd Landis was disqualified for doping, said he believed that “the whole of the UCI should resign” over the Armstrong Affair.
Pereiro told AFP: “If the accusations of Lance’s former colleagues prove accurate, for instance saying they were tipped off ahead of tests, then the UCI is also caught up in this — they should all resign.”
French former world number one and 1997 world time trial champion Laurent Jalabert meanwhile told broadcaster RTL that Armstrong was “an immense champion” and had an “extraordinary ability,” expressing a view held by some professional cyclists.
But he, too, suggested that cycling’s authorities had questions to answer about why he was not detected sooner.
British Olympic gold medalist Jamie Staff, now a coach at USA Cycling, told BBC television that Armstrong was “kind of a scapegoat” for a wider problem affecting the sport in the recent past.
But his compatriot David Millar, who was banned for two years for doping in 2004, told Sky Sports News television that he welcomed the ban.
“It’s late but I’m so pleased it’s happened. Because there was a time when all of us in the peloton thought this would always be the massive elephant in the room that would never get sorted,” the Garmin-Sharp rider said. “If we want to move forward, we have to accept the past, we have to live with it, and we have to move on in the right direction, which is what we’re doing now.”