GENEVA The seven Tour de France titles stripped from Lance Armstrong will not be awarded to any riders, and the disgraced American and his teammates should return their prize money, cycling's governing body ruled Friday.
Acknowledging "a cloud of suspicion would remain hanging over this dark period," the UCI said the list of Tour winners will remain blank for the years from 1999 to 2005.
"This might appear harsh for those who rode clean (but) they would understand there was little honor to be gained in reallocating places," the UCI said after a board meeting in Geneva.
The UCI said Armstrong and "all other affected riders" in the case should return their prize money. That amounts to almost $4 million in Tour money from Armstrong.
The cycling body also ordered an independent outside investigation to examine allegations about the UCI's own conduct and relations with Armstrong raised by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that detailed systematic cheating by the Texan and his teammates.
UCI has been accused of accepting $125,000 from Armstrong to cover up suspicious doping tests.
Riders and officials involved in doping programs will also be targeted by the inquiry commission.
"Part of the independent commission's remit would be to find ways to ensure that persons caught for doping were no longer able to take part in the sport, including as part of an entourage," the UCI said in a statement.
A potentially explosive defamation suit filed by the UCI, its president Pat McQuaid and predecessor Hein Verbruggen against Irish journalist and former Tour rider Paul Kimmage has been put on hold, the board said.
Kimmage was scheduled to defend his claims that cycling's leaders protected Armstrong at a Dec. 12 hearing in Vevey, Switzerland. Kimmage has received more than $70,000 in donations from cycling fans to fight his case.
Armstrong's expulsion from the sport he dominated was confirmed Monday when the UCI acknowledged the USADA findings that his teams ran "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."
Friday's meeting of the UCI board was a necessary legal step to confirm a seven-year hole in the Tour de France roll of honor.
"UCI is determined to turn around this painful episode in the history of our sport," McQuaid said in a statement. "We will take whatever actions are deemed necessary by the independent commission and we will put cycling back on track."
An "independent sports body" will be chosen by UCI within two weeks to nominate members of the advisory panel, which is scheduled to report back by June 2013.
As well as leaving the Tour winner's list blank from 1999-2005, the UCI agreed "not to award victories to any other rider or upgrade other placings in any of the affected events."
"The (management) committee decided to apply this ruling from now on to any competitive sporting results disqualified due to doping for the period from 1998 to 2005, without prejudice to the statute of limitation," the UCI said.