The ban begins in February the effective start of the racing season and means that Virenque will miss next season's main races, including his favorite, the Tour de France.
It also threatens to end the professional career of 31-year-old Virenque, who is now unsigned after two seasons with the Italian team Polti.
"My first reaction is disappointment,'' one of Virenque's lawyers, Vincent Speder, told The Associated Press.
"Without competing in 2001, it will be difficult to find a team in 2002. We wonder if this decision doesn't definitively exclude Richard Virenque from professional cycling,'' he said.
Swiss Cycling also fined the French climbing specialist 4,000 Swiss francs ($2,440) the maximum permitted for first doping offenses, and ordered him to pay 2,000 francs ($ 1,220) in costs.
Daniel Baal, president of the French Cycling Federation, said the punishment was reasonable.
"I cannot consider this to be unjust and I am not disappointed,'' Baal said in a telephone interview. "This is not exceptionally severe.''
Virenque is expected to appeal the verdict to the Lausanne-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Last week, a court in Lille, France cleared Virenque of charges he helped supply drugs to his Festina teammates. The court convicted Festina's former trainer and the former team physiotherapist, as well as the six other defendants.
Virenque, the star defendant at the trial, caused a sensation with his frank testimony about systematic, but unacknowledged, drug use in Festina and the sport in general. He had previously denied all knowledge.
After the acquittal, Virenque said he feared "another trial'' in Switzerland.
The International Cycling Union asked the Swiss Federation in early December to take action against Virenque because he has a Swiss professional license.
In 1998, Swiss Cycling barred three Swiss riders with Festina Alex Zuelle, Laurent Dufaux and Armin Meier for eight months after they admitted taking the performance-enhancing drug, EPO. The suspension was reduced to 7 months by the international federation.
The Festina team was thrown out of the 1998 Tour de France after a stash of illicit products, including EPO, was found in a team car.
Andreu calls it quits
From the Associated Press, Dec 26
Frankie Andreu, a teammate of two-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong, retired from cycling and will become the American director of the U.S. Postal Service team.
"After the highlights of the last two years my thoughts were that I should retire while I'm still at the top,'' Andreu said in announcing his decision on his Web site.
The 34-year-old rider from Dearborn, Mich., has raced for 11 years as a professional in Europe and has competed in the Tour de France nine times. He raced in the 1988 and 1996 Olympics.
He finished in 110th place in the Tour de France last summer when Armstrong won cycling's showcase event for the second straight year. Andreu finished in 65th place in 1999.
He is now looking forward to his new role with Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service team.
"This is a position I've always had the utmost respect for and I hope to earn the respect and leadership of the riders,'' he said.
Armstrong beat by Tiger again
For the second year in a row, Lance Armstrong's exploits at the Tour de France fall short of the hole as golfing superstar Tiger Woods sunk his second-consecutive AP Male Athlete of the Year award.
Woods garnered 47 first-place votes and a total of 160 overall points, while Armsrong finished a distant second with eight first-place votes and 72 total points.
Here are the top 10:
1. Tiger Woods (golf) 160 (47)
2. Lance Armstrong (cycling) 72 (8)
3. Kurt Warner (football) 34 (3)
4. Pedro Martinez (baseball) 31 (3)
5. Shaquille O'Neal (basketball) 22 (1)
6. Rulon Gardner (wrestling) 18 (3)
7. Jason Giambi (baseball) 13 (2)
8. Derek Jeter (baseball) 8
9. Marshall Faulk (football) 7
10. Josh Heupel (football) 7 (2)
Sevilla re-signs with Kelme
MADRID, Dec 28 (AFP) One of Spain's most promising cyclists, Oscar Sevilla, has signed with the Kelme team for another three years, the team announced on Thursday.
Details of the contract were not revealed but it is believed the 24-year-old was offered considerably improved financial terms as he was wanted by a clutch of rival teams.