Lance Armstrong is losing the seven cycling titles that made him a legend.

The International Cycling Union announced Monday that Armstrong is being stripped of his Tour de France titles.

"Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling," said the union's president, Pat McQuaid, announcing that Armstrong is banned from the sport.

The decision follows this month's finding by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that there is "overwhelming" evidence that Armstrong was involved as a professional cyclist in "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program."

McQuaid said he was "sickened" by the report.

But he emphasized, "Cycling has a future."

In a statement, the union wrote, "Today's young riders do not deserve to be branded or tarnished by the past or to pay the price for the Armstrong era."

Armstrong has steadfastly maintained his innocence. At an event Sunday, he did not refer to the controversy directly but said it's been "an interesting and at times very difficult few weeks."

Armstrong's story -- that of a cancer survivor who tamed the grueling three-week race more than any other cyclist before or since -- had made him a household name. But allegations of doping long dogged his career.

Then came this month's finding by the USADA.

The agency announced it would ban Armstrong from the sport for life and strip him of his results dating from 1998. The decision wiped out 14 years of his career. McQuaid said Monday the cycling union would not appeal USADA's decision.

McQuaid, speaking at a news conference Monday, said he does not believe cycling will ever be free from doping, because "I don't think in any aspect of society there are no cheats. I do believe that doping can be hugely reduced."

The keys are education programs and how teams are structured, he said.

Monday's news conference turned somewhat contentious as reporters asked whether the cycling union had looked the other way for years despite growing allegations of widespread doping in the sport. Armstrong had made two donations to the union for anti-doping technology.

McQuaid insisted his organization never ignored the concerns raised about possible doping. And he wrote off any suggestion that Armstrong's contributions had led the organization to make any decision on the issue.

"The UCI has tested Lance Armstrong 218 times. If Lance Armstrong was able to beat the system, then the responsibility for addressing that rests not only with the UCI but also with" the anti-doping agencies that accepted the results, the cycling union said in its statement.

The International Olympic Committee also is reviewing the evidence and could revoke Armstrong's bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Games.

It is now up to the organizers of the Tour de France whether it will nominate alternate winners for the 1999-2005 tours. The Amaury Sport Organisation, which runs the 21-day event, has said it will decide after the ruling.

The cycling union's decision leaves Greg LeMond as the only American to win the tour. He did so in 1986, 1989 and 1990.

In the past, Armstrong, 41, argued that he has taken more than 500 drug tests and never failed. In its 202-page report, the USADA said it had tested Armstrong less than 60 times and the International Cycling Union conducted about 215 tests.