Goodbye to Lance Armstrong's 7 Tour titles

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Goodbye to Lance Armstrong's 7 Tour titles

From Comcast SportsNetGENEVA (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.UCI President Pat McQuaid announced that the federation accepted the 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.Armstrong's representatives had no immediate comment.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. Under the penalties, he loses all his race results since August 1998.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 testimony that he pressured them to take banned drugs."I was sickened by what I read in the USADA report," McQuaid said, singling out the testimony of former Armstrong teammate 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. USADA's report, released earlier this month, was aimed at showing why the agency ordered the sanctions against him."At the moment Lance Armstrong hasn't admitted to anything, yet all the evidence is there in this report that he doped," McQuaid said.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 seems to have marked a turning point in the saga. Longtime sponsors Nike, Trek Bicycles and Anheuser-Busch dropped Armstrong last week, as did other companies, and he stepped down 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" which pressured witnesses into cooperating."It is for Mr. Armstrong to defend himself against such witness statements that he deems to be incorrect. It is not for the UCI to do so," the governing body said in a statement.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's position is that 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.McQuaid said the UCI's board will meet Friday to discuss the Olympic issue and whether to update other race results taking account of Armstrong's disqualifications.A so-called "Truth and Reconciliation" commission, which could offer a limited amnesty to riders and officials who confessed to doping practices, will also be discussed, UCI legal adviser Philippe Verbiest said.In total, 26 people -- including 15 riders -- testified to USADA 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 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.

Blakely: Celtics make a healthy choice in standing pat at the deadline

Blakely: Celtics make a healthy choice in standing pat at the deadline

BOSTON -- For the second year in a row, the NBA trade deadline has come and gone with the Boston Celtics making no moves.
 
The Celtics were focused on trying to land either Chicago’s Jimmy Butler or Indiana’s Paul George, but Boston’s efforts never gained momentum in the final hours leading up to Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.

And while there were a handful of potential deals that would have made Boston slightly better, that improvement -- and the cost attached to it -- was just more than Ainge and the Celtics were willing to pay. 
 
And so they hit the final stretch of the season with a roster that – for now at least – looks identical to what they had at the start of the season with one difference --health. 
 
Most of this season, the Celtics have had multiple players out with injuries or various ailments. Currently, Avery Bradley (right Achilles) is the lone Celtic dealing with a significant injury. 
 
And after Bradley practiced some on Thursday, there’s a chance that he might be on the floor Friday night at Toronto. 
 
But there is no question that a significant segment of Celtics Nation is disappointed that Boston didn’t engineer a trade of some sort.
 
“We’re trying to upgrade our team,” said Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations. “But it is a delicate balance between short-term goals and long-term goals. Obviously, both are very important. We’re excited where we are on a long-term basis. And this year we didn’t make any trades. Last year we didn’t make any trades.”
 
But in standing pat a year ago, the Celtics solidified their salary cap space to where they could have offered a pair of max contracts to Al Horford – which they did – as well as Kevin Durant who met with Boston but ultimately decided to sign with Golden State. 
 
And by not including their first-round pick last season, the Celtics have Jaylen Brown who is one of the better rookies in this year’s class. 
 
“So we’re happy with the direction that we’re moving,” Ainge said. 
 
But standing pat was not on the agenda for the teams surrounding Boston in the East.
 
Boston’s inability to strike a deal is in sharp contrast to what teams surrounding them did during this trade season. 
 
The Cleveland Cavaliers are the team Boston and the rest of the East are chasing. They acquired Kyle Korver earlier this month, a player who ranks among the NBA’s all-time great 3-point shooters. 
 
Washington added Bojan Bogdanovic from Brooklyn today, providing some much-needed firepower for a Wizards second unit that ranks among the NBA’s lowest scoring groups. 
 
Toronto recently traded for Orlando’s Serge Ibaka, giving the Raptors a defensive-oriented big man who can stretch the floor. 
 
Also today, the Atlanta Hawks picked up Ersan Illyasova from Philadelphia, which should help them space the floor better.
 
Each of those teams addressed a very specific need, something the Celtics were hoping to do. 
 
But more than a player, the Celtics could benefit from a roster with improved health. 
 
The team’s preferred starting five -- Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Al Horford and Amir Johnson -- has a 15-6 record this season. To put that in perspective, that’s a winning percentage of .714 which would be tops in the East and third overall in the NBA for this season. 
 
And with most of the players seemingly back to full strength health-wise now, it’s understandable to some extent why Ainge would be willing to stick with this group for the rest of the season. 
 
“As you’ve been watching lately, we’ve been winning a lot of games with everybody,” Ainge said. “Players ten through fifteen contributing to our wins. We like the depth of the team, we like the youth of the team, we like the energy and enthusiasm of the team and I’m very anxious and excited to watch in the second half.”
 
But just like when they stood pat last year, the decision puts the onus on the players and the coaching staff to step their game up. 

“I roll with the guys in this locker room until something changes,” Isaiah Thomas said prior to the trade deadline. “I always mean that.”
 
Said Jae Crowder: “We have to take care of what we can control and that’s night-in and night-out, try to get wins.”

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Moreland, Travis homer to lead Red Sox past Northeastern 9-6 in opener

Mitch Moreland and Sam Travis hit three-run homers and left-hander Brian Johnson started and pitched two scoreless innings to help the Red Sox win their spring training opener, 9-6, over Northeastern University on Thursday in Fort Myers, Fla.

Johnson, who made one spot start in his MLB debut with the Red Sox in 2015 but then was derailed by injuries and anxiety issues last season, struck out three and walked one Thursday. He's expected to start the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, where he went 5-6 with a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts in 2016.

Moreland, the left-handed hitting first baseman signed to a one-year deal after spending his first seven seasons with the Texas Rangers, and Travis, a right-handed hitting first base prospect coming back from knee surgery last season, each hit three-run homers in a six-run third inning.

Pablo Sandoval, attempting to reclaim the third-base job after missing nearly all of last season after surgery on his left shoulder, went 1-for-2 with a double. 

The Red Sox open Grapefruit League play Friday afternoon when they host the New York Mets at JetBlue Park.