Monday, Oct. 22, 2012 | 8:05 a.m.
PARIS — Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme no longer considers Lance Armstrong a seven-time winner of the world's most prestigious cycling race.
Speaking shortly after cycling's governing body ratified the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's decision to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour titles, Prudhomme welcomed the decision, reiterating his belief that there should be no new champions declared for the seven Tours that Armstrong had won.
"It's without surprise that we received today's news, it's totally logical. Lance Armstrong is no longer the winner of the Tour de France from 1999-2005," Prudhomme said at the Paris headquarters of ASO, which owns the race. "We wish that there is no winner for this period. For us, very clearly, the titles should remain blank. Effectively, we wish for these years to remain without winners."
Armstrong also finished third in the 2009 Tour in his comeback year, but the UCI has yet to say whether that podium place will be removed.
"In all logic, everything must disappear," Prudhomme said. "This is the story of a real talent who lost his way."
USADA, which published a damning 200-page report packed with testimonies from several of Armstrong's former teammates on the U.S. Postal team, says all of Armstrong's results dating back to August 1998 should be removed. The UCI was expected to meet Friday to further discuss what to do with the podium places from Armstrong's seven Tour wins, notably whether to move other riders up, the 2009 podium spot, and other race wins during his long career.
USADA and witness testimonies from former Postal teammates such as George Hincapie, Jonathan Vaughters, Frankie Andreu and Levi Leipheimer placed the cancer survivor as the focal point of the doping that went on inside the team.
"It's the system that's especially to blame," Prudhomme said. "We're in a mafia system that goes beyond doping and which goes beyond the name of sport ... this time it's a global crisis. Armstrong's aura touches everyone, everywhere in the world."
Prudhomme was evasive when asked if ASO — whose newspaper L'Equipe published a damning report into Armstrong's use of EPO on the '99 Tour only days after he'd completed his seventh Tour win — regretted welcoming Armstrong back on the race in 2009.
"At the time, we said Armstrong could come back if he submitted himself to the same rules as everyone else," Prudhomme said, also citing the improvement in anti-doping controls when the Texan made his comeback.
Still, Prudhomme is optimistic that the UCI's ratification of USADA's findings is a massive step forward for cycling.
"It's through difficulty that you can build things," he said. "Today's cycling has already changed from the past, but of course the UCI must learn all the lessons from the Armstrong case and how we arrived at this point."
Prudhomme said Armstrong's prize money from the seven Tours should also be reimbursed.
"The UCI rules are clear: when a rider loses his title, he must reimburse his winnings," Prudhomme said.