Armstrong’s Tour titles will be blank

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.”

— The Associated Press