Once a symbol of perseverance in the face of the most incredible odds, Lance Armstrong now seems destined to go down in history as one of the most brazen dope cheats that sport has ever seen.
After sensationally conceding defeat in his fight to contest the charges against him in August, the Texan's world caved in further on Monday when the International Cycling Union (UCI) erased him from the sport's history.
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life today after the UCI ratified the United States Anti-Doping Agency's (USADA) sanctions against the American.
Although Lance Armstrong was finally and definitively cast out of his sport and stripped off his seven Tour de France titles on Monday, the cycling world will have to wait a while longer to discover whether or not new winners will be declared for the races held between 1999 and 2005. The long-awaited decision has left cycling facing its "greatest crisis" according to UCI president Pat McQuaid and has destroyed Armstrong's last hope of clearing his name.
"Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. Lance Armstrong deserves to be forgotten in cyclling," McQuaid told a news conference as he outlined how cycling, long battered by doping problems for decades, would have to start all over again.
"The UCI wishes to begin that journey on that path forward today by confirming that it will not appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and that it will recognize the sanction that USADA has imposed.
"I was sickened by what I read in the USADA report." On Oct. 10, USADA published a report into Armstrong which alleged the now-retired rider had been involved in the "most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen".
The UCI will not be taking an appeal against USADA's 1,000-page "reasoned decision" to the Court of Arbitration for Sport
"He was not just a part of the doping culture on his team," said the USADA. "He enforced and re-enforced it."
The decision to cast aside one of cycling's most successful exponents leaves Armstrong's sporting legacy in tatters but for all his detractors, there have been just as many admirers.
For his supporters, the doping allegations pale into comparison beside his battle with life-threatening cancer and the work of his charitable foundation, which he founded to help others living with the disease.
Doctors had given Armstrong a less than 50 percent chance of survival when he was diagnosed in 1996 with testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain.
Amnesty on cards?
Friday's committee meeting will also consider the possibility of setting up some sort of truth and reconciliation process on the lines of that utilised by the South African government in the wake of apartheid, including the notion of an amnesty. "The trouble is that amnesty means different things in different languages," Philippe Verbiest, the UCI's legal advisor, said on Monday. "It's not something that you can figure out in one day."
The idea of an amnesty does not, however, appear to extend to journalists. McQuaid confirmed that he and Hein Verbruggen, fromer UCI president, will be continuing their legal action for defamation against the Irish journalist and former rider Paul Kimmage, one of a handful of reporters who showed the persistence and courage to pursue the Armstrong story.