UCI agrees to strip Armstrong of his 7 Tour titles


UCI agrees to strip Armstrong of his 7 Tour titles

GENEVA (AP) -- Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life by cycling's governing body Monday following a report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that accused him of leading a massive doping program on his teams.

International Cycling Union President Pat McQuaid announced that the federation accepted USADA's report on Armstrong and would not appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

"Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling and he deserves to be forgotten in cycling," McQuaid said at a news conference. "This is a landmark day for cycling."

The decision clears the way for Tour de France organizers to officially remove Armstrong's name from the record books, erasing his consecutive victories from 1999-2005.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme has said the race would go along with whatever cycling's governing body decides and will have no official winners for those years.

USADA said Armstrong should be banned and stripped of his Tour titles for "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen" within his U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams.

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.

"I was sickened by what I read in the USADA report," McQuaid said, singling out the testimony of David Zabriskie. "The story he told of how he was coerced and to some extent forced into doping is just mind boggling."

Armstrong denies doping, saying he passed hundreds of drug tests. But he chose not to fight USADA in one of the agency's arbitration hearings, arguing the process was biased against him. Former Armstrong team director Johan Bruyneel is also facing doping charges, but he is challenging the USADA case in arbitration.

On Sunday, Armstrong greeted about 4,300 cyclists at his Livestrong charity's fundraiser bike ride in Texas, telling the crowd he's faced a "very difficult" few weeks.

"I've been better, but I've also been worse," Armstrong, a cancer survivor, told the crowd.

While drug use allegations have followed the 41-year-old Armstrong throughout much of his career, the USADA report has badly damaged his reputation. Longtime sponsors Nike, Trek Bicycles and Anheuser-Busch have dropped him, as have other companies, and Armstrong also 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.

Armstrong's astonishing return from life-threatening illness to the summit of cycling offered an inspirational story that transcended the sport. However, his downfall has ended "one of the most sordid chapters in sports history," USADA said in its 200-page report published two weeks ago.

Armstrong has consistently argued that the USADA system was rigged against him, calling the agency's effort a "witch hunt."

If Armstrong's Tour victories are not reassigned there would be a hole in the record books, marking a shift from how organizers treated similar cases in the past.

When Alberto Contador was stripped of his 2010 Tour victory for a doping violation, organizers awarded the title to Andy Schleck. In 2006, Oscar Pereiro was awarded the victory after the doping disqualification of American rider Floyd Landis.

USADA also thinks the Tour titles should not be given to other riders who finished on the podium, such was the level of doping during Armstrong's era.

The agency said 20 of the 21 riders on the podium in the Tour from 1999 through 2005 have been "directly tied to likely doping through admissions, sanctions, public investigations" or other means. It added that of the 45 riders on the podium between 1996 and 2010, 36 were by cyclists "similarly tainted by doping."

The world's most famous cyclist could still face further sports sanctions and legal challenges. Armstrong could lose his 2000 Olympic time-trial bronze medal and may be targeted with civil lawsuits from ex-sponsors or even the U.S. government.

In total, 26 people -- including 15 riders -- testified that Armstrong and his teams used and trafficked banned substances and routinely used blood transfusions. Among the witnesses were loyal sidekick George Hincapie and admitted dopers Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis.

USADA's case also implicated Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari, depicted as the architect of doping programs, and longtime coach and team manager Bruyneel.

Ferrari -- who has been targeted in an Italian prosecutor's probe -- and another medical official, Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral, received lifetime bans.

Bruyneel, team doctor Pedro Celaya and trainer Jose "Pepe" Marti opted to take their cases to arbitration with USADA. The agency could call Armstrong as a witness at those hearings.

Bruyneel, a Belgian former Tour de France rider, lost his job last week as manager of the RadioShack-Nissan Trek team which Armstrong helped found to ride for in the 2010 season.

Quick Links

Morning tip: Emphasis on spacing should enhance Otto Porter's output

Morning tip: Emphasis on spacing should enhance Otto Porter's output

The bigget emphasis on the offensive end under coach Scott Brooks, since training camp and through seven preseason games, is spacing. Whether Bradley Beal is running the offense or John Wall has them flow into pick-and-rolls before calling a set, the ball doesn't move so effortlessly if the floor is congested.

That's where Otto Porter comes in. Going into his fourth season, and second as the starter at small foward, this is where he should flourish. Porter doesn't thrive standing still in the corner for catch-and-shoot three-pointers. He prefers to be moving to the ball, and the off-ball movement and spacing that creates the avenues for the passes from the guards allows him to maximize his skill-set.

"We can get anything we want as long as everybody keep moving, everybody keep sharing the ball," said Porter, who had the tendency to disappear during long stretches of games or multiple games under Randy Wittman. 

Center Marcin Gortat is optimistic by what he sees overall. In the Wizards' last preseason game, a win over the Toronto Raptors, they had 33 assists on 49 field goals. Beal had nine assists and no turnovers.

"We’re moving the ball much better than we’ve been moving the last few years," Gortat said. "We run completely different drills in practice. … We have a lot of options."

[RELATED: No love lost for Wizards with new-look Hawks]

Gortat is one of the top five screening big men in the NBA, and Brooks has his guards doing more screening as well. Taking advantage of defenses watching the ball when Wall has it with backdoor cuts for slip passes is more common. 

"The perimeter guys are doing a good job of finding open cuts to the basket. Otto was one of the best at doing it," Brooks said. "We have to continue to work on our spacing. Sometimes we don’t want you to cut. You have to space out."

The change is welcomed for Wall who doesn't have to do everything all the time with defenses loading to him on the ball. Porter can be a more effective third scorer. With more players touching the ball it will keep them engaged and in theory make them more productive. 

"With our offense, he just wants movement," Wall said of Brooks' philosophy. "I talk to guys about cutting at certain times. I think Otto, he’s one of the best cutters in the league when he has the opportunity to do it. When we’re penetrating and driving there’s so much attention on us we have guys like (Markieff Morris) that can pass and (Gortat) who can knock down shots. It’s about cutting and getting the timing down pat. Our starting five is a free-flowing offense.”

[RELATED: Brooks, Beal impressed with Wizards' passing this preseason]


Quick Links

Wizards focus on posting up Wall, Beal against smaller guards

Wizards focus on posting up Wall, Beal against smaller guards

Sporadically, John Wall would post up smaller guards last season. It didn't become a staple of his game, however, and Bradley Beal didn't do much of it either when he was being defended by them. 

Scott Brooks is trying to change that immediately. In seven preseason games, that was one of many focal points for the offense.

Wall is a big point guard at 6-4 and physically strong. Beal isn't exceptionally big for a shooting guard, but he has gotten more size and grown an inch taller than his backcourt mate. When 6-footers such as Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors have to switch onto Beal, the Wizards are getting the ball to him quickly at the rim to force a rotation from a second player to help or clear out for Beal to go to work. 

“As we all evolve we’re going to have to push ourselves to play different spots on the floor. John has great size at his position," Brooks said. "For him to post up and be a playmaker from that spot, defenses are not used to that. There are not a lot of pure point guards who can post up. He has the strength and he has the quickness and obviously he has the passing ability. With Brad, they have to make a decision. Are they going to put a bigger guy on John? We’re going to have that opportunity with Brad also."