Tour de France boss Christian Prudhomme has said that the winner’s name of the Tour de France should be left blank for each of the seven editions of the race won by Lance Armstrong, assuming the UCI ratifies the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to ban the former cyclist for life and strip him of all results dating back to 1998.
"What we would like is for there to be no winner in those years," said Prudhomme, quoted in the Guardian.
The proposal is at odds with what happened in the cases of the two men previously stripped of an overall victory in cycling’s biggest race.
Floyd Landis’s 2006 win went to runner-up Oscar Pereiro, while earlier this year Andy Schleck was awarded the 2010 title after Alberto Contador was banned for failing a doping control during that edition.
"We cannot be indifferent to what USADA has uncovered,” explained Prudhomme.
“It is a dark and deeply disturbing picture. It has called into question a system and an entire era which remains stained for ever. It is a lost decade."
The power to formally strip Armstrong of the seven titles he won between 1999 and 2005 does not lie with ASO itself, however.
"As astonishing as it may seem, the Tour de France is not the master of its record books. That goes through the UCI rather than the race organisers," commented Prudhomme.
The UCI has a little under three weeks either to ratify USADA’s sanctions, or appeal the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
That may not happen until after the full route of next year’s race has been formally unveiled in Paris a week on Wednesday, but former journalist Prudhomme is confident about the sport’s future.
"The problems which occurred in the Armstrong years meant that progress has already happened. Cycling today bears no resemblance to yesterday's cycling.
"The anti-doping fight of recent years was based on those problems and there has been considerable progress in recent years: cycling has been a pioneer in areas such as targeted testing and the biological passport.
“Today, the cheats are caught, and caught more rapidly than before. We have to continue in this direction. There is no other way."
The wish by ASO not to reassign the titles reflects the fact that in each of those seven victories, Armstrong shared the podium with men who almost without exception have also either been sanctioned for doping or come under suspicion at various times.
"Our challenge is to regain credibility," Prudhomme conceded.
The misunderstanding here is that we need people to have sympathy with JSO....
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