GENEVA — Seven lines of blanks. From 1999 to 2005. There will be no Tour de France winner in the record book for those years.
Once the toast of the Champs-Elysees, Lance Armstrong was formally stripped of his seven Tour titles Monday and banned for life for doping.
As far as the Tour is concerned, his victories never happened. He was never on the top step of the podium. The winner’s yellow jersey was never on his back.
The decision by the International Cycling Union marked an end to the saga that brought down the most decorated rider in Tour history and exposed widespread cheating in the sport.
‘‘Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling, and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling,’’ said Pat McQuaid, president of the governing body. ‘‘Make no mistake, it’s a catastrophe for him, and he has to face up to that.’’
It’s also devastating for Tour de France organizers, who have to carve seven gaping holes from the honor roll of the sport’s biggest event and airbrush Armstrong’s image from a sun-baked podium on the Champs-Elysees.
No more rides through Paris for the grim-faced cancer survivor bearing the American flag. No champagne. From the sport’s perspective, it’s all gone.
‘‘We wish that there is no winner for this period,’’ Tour director Christian Prudhomme said Monday in Paris. ‘‘For us, very clearly, the titles should remain blank. Effectively, we wish for these years to remain without winners.’’
Armstrong’s fiercely defended reputation as a clean athlete was shattered by the US Anti-Doping Agency two weeks ago, when it detailed evidence of drug use and trafficking by his Tour-winning teams. USADA released its report to show why it ordered Armstrong banned from competition back in August. Monday’s judgment by the UCI was just the necessary next legal step to formalize the loss of his titles and expel him from the sport.
It will likely also trigger painful financial hits for Armstrong as race organizers and former sponsors line up to reclaim what are now viewed as his ill-gotten rewards, though the cyclist maintains he never doped.
Prudhomme wants Armstrong to pay back prize money from his seven wins, which the French cycling federation tallied at $3.85 million.Armstrong also once was awarded $7.5 million plus legal fees from Dallas-based SCA Promotions Inc., which tried to withhold paying a bonus for the rider’s 2004 Tour victory after it alleged he doped to win.
The United States government could also get involved in a case brought by Floyd Landis, who was key to taking down his illustrious former teammate by turning whistleblower in 2010.
The losses pile up for a man who dedicated himself to victory, over other cyclists and the cancer that almost killed him in 1996.
Neither Armstrong nor his representatives had any comment about Monday’s decision, but the rider was defiant in August when he chose not to fight USADA in one of the agency’s arbitration hearings. He argued the process was rigged against him.
The condemnation by McQuaid, cycling’s most senior official, confirmed Armstrong’s pariah status, after the UCI had backed him at times in trying to seize control of the doping investigation from USADA.
McQuaid announced that the UCI accepted the sanctions imposed by USADA and would not appeal them to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. His board will meet Friday to discuss going after Armstrong’s 2000 Olympic bronze medal and the possibility of setting up a ‘‘Truth and Reconciliation’’ commission to air the sport’s remaining secrets.
The International Olympic Committee said it would study the UCI’s response and wait to receive its full decision before possibly taking away Armstrong’s medal from the Sydney Games time trial.
McQuaid said he was ‘‘sickened’’ by some of the evidence detailed by USADA in its 200-page report and hundreds of pages of supporting testimony and documents.
USADA said Armstrong was at the center of ‘‘the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen’’ within his US Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams.
The American agency welcomed the decision by UCI.
‘‘Today, the UCI made the right decision in the Lance Armstrong case,’’ USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement, which called on cycling to continue to fight doping. ‘‘There are many more details of doping that are hidden, many more doping doctors, and corrupt team directors and the omerta has not yet been fully broken.’’
The USADA report said Armstrong and his teams used steroids, the blood booster EPO and blood transfusions. The report included statements from 11 former teammates who testified against Armstrong, including that he pressured them to take banned drugs.