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PARIS (Reuters) - Cyclist Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles and banned for life by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
Last week USADA released a 1,000 page report accusing the 41-year-old American of being involved in "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen".
Armstrong has consistently denied ever using drugs but decided not to contest the charges.
Texan promotional company SCA were to pay $5 million to Armstrong after he won the 2004 Tour de France but, after a French book detailed doping allegations, they refused to hand over the money.
The matter went to arbitration and SCA eventually agreed to settle for $7.5 million two years later, the initial bonus plus $2.5 million in costs. SCA said last week they were monitoring the situation closely and could seek to recoup the money.
The British Sunday Times said they could sue Armstrong after an out-of-court settlement on defamation claims cost them $1 million.
The French federation, which hands out the Tour de France prize money, has already expressed its desire to reclaim Armstrong's winnings, estimated at around $3.5 million. According to the French daily L'Equipe, Armstrong also pocketed about $130,000 in other races.
Armstrong could also face perjury charges after allegedly lying under oath when quizzed over the SCA affair.
The announcement by U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr to drop the investigation came as a surprise and, since he did not have to explain himself, the question remains unanswered.
The International Cycling Union have to rule by October 31 at the latest. They can either strip Armstrong's seven Tour titles or, if they believe USADA have failed to make their case, take the matter to the independent Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Should Armstrong lose his Tour titles, the wins are usually awarded to the second-placed rider but tour organizers Amaury Sport Organisation have suggested that the titles be left vacant since most podium finishers at the time have been linked to doping.
Donations to Livestrong, the non-profit organization founded by Armstrong in 1997 to support cancer sufferers, soared the day USADA announced the cyclist has been banned in August. Since then have returned to more usual levels, according to the foundation.
* ARMSTRONG CLAIMS HE HAS PASSED 500 PLUS TESTS. IS THAT TRUE?
No, for two reasons.
Armstrong was tested, at most, 275 times and probably fewer.
In 1999, he tested positive for cortisone during the Tour de France but a prescription was afterwards provided by Armstrong, who claimed he used a cream containing corticosteroids to treat saddle sores.
No. Armstrong has elected not to contest the charges, but his mentor and former team manager Johan Bruyneel has chosen to appear before an arbitration panel. He is expected to be heard this autumn and the Belgian has asked for a public hearing.
Doctor Pedro Celaya, one of the five charged by USADA, has also opted for arbitration.
Doctors Luis Garcia del Moral, Pepe Marti and Michele Ferrari, who were also charged by USADA, were banned for life. Former Armstrong team mates who testified were handed reduced bans.
Compiled by Julien Pretot; Editing by John Mehaffey