MAASTRICHT, Netherlands (AFP) — UCI president Pat McQuaid said cycling’s governing body was prepared to confirm the lifetime ban against seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and ruled out amnesty for riders that took performance enhancing drugs during their careers.
McQuaid, speaking during a press conference Saturday, said the UCI is not expected to challenge the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s lifetime ban against Armstrong.
McQuaid spoke a day after the UCI adopted a motion at its annual Congress here to focus on the anti-doping effort in order to provide a clean environment for the next generations of riders.
The Irishman said, however, that the UCI would not be setting up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission at which riders could admit to their doping pasts in order to clean up the sport for the future.
“The UCI Steering Committee discussed the possibility of an operation similar to what South Africa knew at the end of Apartheid with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” said McQuaid. “The conclusion was that it would first be inappropriate to take any action while the USADA/Armstrong affair is underway and, in addition, the Global Code does not provide for any amnesty.
“We’re not at all in the same situation as in South Africa and the idea was abandoned.”
McQuaid said the UCI was still awaiting a report from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency on its case against American Lance Armstrong, whom USADA has branded a drug cheat.
USADA ruled last month that Armstrong would be banned for life and his results since 1998 — including seven Tour de France titles won from 1999-2005 — would be expunged due to numerous violations. McQuaid said that after receiving the final USADA verdict the UCI would have 21 days to take a decision.
“Except if the examination of the documents should reveal an important problem, the UCI has no intention of appealing (before the Court of Arbitration for Sport) but we need to check,” he said.
USADA CEO Travis Tygart said last month that, because Armstrong declined arbitration in the case, the lifetime ban USADA handed Armstrong was final. The UCI is insisting on its right to review the documents and has expressed its frustration with USADA for not sharing the documents earlier.
USADA, however, still has pending cases against Johan Bruyneel and Dr. Pedro Celaya as part of what it characterized as a larger doping conspiracy, so the agency has been hesitant to share the files for fear they could jeopardize its case.
Armstrong’s fate was the center of many of the questions during a one-hour press conference with McQuaid on Saturday.
The Irishman heatedly shot down questions surrounding suggestions that Armstrong’s payments to the UCI in the early 2000s were little more than a bribe to cover up a positive test. According to accounts by former teammates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, Armstrong allegedly bragged about having a doping positive from the 2001 Tour de Suisse hushed up with help from the UCI and that he was often tipped off ahead of time about out-of-competition tests.
“I repeat, the UCI has never hidden a sample of any rider, in particular Lance Armstrong,” he said. “And other statements that the UCI had informed Armstrong in advance of testing, that’s another complete fallacy. That’s completely ridiculous.”
McQuaid did reconfirm earlier statements that the UCI received two payments from Armstrong in the early 2000s – one for $25,000 and another for $100,000 – which McQuaid said were officially registered with UCI accountants.
The money, McQuaid says, was used to help fund anti-doping efforts, in particular to help purchase a mass spectrometer, ironically, the same type of machine that detected Hamilton’s blood doping practices during the 2004 Vuelta a España.
“To try to link those payments to a hidden (sample) is malicious, to say the least,” McQuaid said. “There was never was a positive test on the table (from Armstrong). We have the paperwork and it was completely transparent.”
McQuaid also countered Armstrong’s public statements that he had been tested more than 500 times during his career and never gave a positive test.
McQuaid said the UCI back-checked its files and confirmed that the UCI tested Armstrong only 215 times and suggested that nearly 300 remaining alleged tests claimed by Armstrong must have come from other agencies, such the World Anti-Doping Agency, USADA or the French anti-doping agency.
“It’s obvious any anti-doping case is not good for cycling,” McQuaid said. “The UCI has nothing to be apologetic about. We always put in to place what the system provides. We were the first to use the biological passport. We catch them, we sanction them and try to get them out of the sport.”
McQuaid, who has been UCI chief since 2005, announced his candidacy for a new four-year term with the fight against doping his priority.
“A real doping culture existed which we are in the process of stamping out but we need time,” he said.
Agence France Presse contributed to this report.