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D-Day looms for Armstrong but case likely to drag on

PARIS (Reuters) - The Lance Armstrong doping scandal reaches a decisive day on Monday when cycling's governing body announces whether it has ratified the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's sanctions but whatever happens the affair is set to run and run.

International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid will hold a news conference at 7.00 a.m. EDT on Monday at which he is widely expected to confirm that Armstrong, 41, is banned for life and loses his record seven Tour de France titles.

Last month, McQuaid said the UCI had no reason to appeal against the USADA decision, adding that the ruling body was waiting to read the reasoned decision and case file published after Armstrong elected not to fight the charges.

The USADA report, released last week, is a 1,000 page document which shows, the Agency says, that Armstrong took part in a doping scheme on his way to his unrivalled success on the Tour from 1999-2005.

The report accused Armstrong, as head of the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team, of running "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."

It included sworn testimony from 26 people, including 15 riders, who described years of performance drug use.

If the UCI rules that USADA has failed to make a case, the sport's governing body will take the matter to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

TAINTED ERA

Should Armstrong lose his Tour titles, race director Christian Prudhomme has already said he does not want them handed to anyone else given that the era was tainted by doping.

The UCI, however, is in an uncomfortable position because the USADA report said Armstrong told his then team mates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton he made a positive drugs test at the Tour of Switzerland "go away" with a payment to the UCI in 2001.

McQuaid has said Armstrong made a $100,000 donation to the UCI in 2002 but "vehemently denied", according to the report, that it was part of a covering up of a positive test.

Armstrong said he was unfazed by the USADA report but some of his long-time partners have been, with Nike Inc dropping the disgraced cyclist over the scandal on Wednesday.

On the same day, Armstrong stepped down as chairman of the Livestrong foundation, although he remained on the board of the association he launched in 1997 to fight cancer.

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