Under fire, defiant McQuaid reflects on career, anti-doping efforts

Brian Canty /
Pat McQuaid says he first encountered EPO when a young rider died in his sleep more than two decades ago. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini | AFP

The best man

With such a seemingly impossible war on his hands, did he ever consider resigning?

“Not for a second,” he said. “I’ve done nothing to warrant resigning. Listen, all I’ve done since I became president is fight doping as best I could. All I’ve done is fight doping, promote the sport, working 365 days of the year for the sport, traveled the world developing the sport, introduced the Biological Passport, introduced a no-needle policy, introduced a rule whereby athletes caught in doping can never come back into the sport as part of the entourage. I’ve introduced all those regulations and if somebody comes to me with another regulation which I can introduce, which will strengthen the fight against doping, straight away I’ll introduce it. That’s as much as we can do. We’re not a police force. My attitude since day one is ‘do whatever it takes.’ I don’t see any reason why I should step down, to let somebody in and maybe doesn’t know as much, or is as capable, or isn’t as passionate, or as dedicated. I think I am the best man.”

But why is cycling in such a mess if the UCI is undertaking all of these measures?

“Look, I cannot as such speak for the UCI between the period of 1999 to 2005. I can talk about the UCI from 2005 onwards, but the UCI that I know from 2005 onwards, if they worked the same as they did prior, which I do believe they did, then the UCI has nothing to fear. And a lot of what was said was political. The USADA report was a novel. I accept everything that’s in there, but the way it was presented, it was presented as a novel, you know? I’m not a lawyer, but lawyers have told me they’re used to seeing reasoned documents and decisions and reading them that the public after two pages would close because it’d be all legal-speak. But this was written in a different way; it was written for public consumption and the sad part about it is the whole process was done in the public arena.”

Listening to his tone, vendettas are always between the lines, begrudgery and spite. McQuaid mentions “mischievous reporting” several times. Like the time it was reported that the UCI didn’t interview riders who put up red flags about doping.

“Not true. We’ve interviewed riders; the UCI had Tyler Hamilton in the office in 2000 or 2001 and he lied through his teeth. Our medical doctors said, ‘We’re looking at your parameters and we can see that you’re up to something and you’re going to be caught.’ ‘Well, your machines must be calibrated wrong’ he said. Floyd Landis is another one. At the end of the day, the UCI caught Tyler Hamilton and Landis.

“One thing I do remember is Landis. I got off a plane in Munich and I was in transit to Switzerland coming back from somewhere and I switched my phone on and there was an SMS from our lawyer saying, ‘Ring me when you get this.’ This was early August. ‘Are you alone?’ he said. ‘You better sit down because we have a positive on the Tour de France.’ And he didn’t even have to tell me and I knew who he was talking about. The 48 hours after that were like hell on earth.”

McQuaid says his phone never rang all day and night until he turned it off.

“It was a huge story. But the UCI caught those guys. Then those guys each spent a small fortune of their own money plus other people’s money. I know for a fact of a guy who was quite friendly with Tyler Hamilton and Tyler was going through this process of appeal after appeal after appeal and he spoke to Tyler. This guy is a millionaire and he said, ‘Did you do drugs? Look me in the eye and tell me.’ And Tyler says ‘no.’ ‘Right, here’s a million dollars to help your case,’ the man said, but eventually the truth came out. He came up with such a cock and bull story about a twin that was never born. But that’s their life and they’ve done that, but what I question is the real motivation behind them coming forward with this information. I’ve no problem with Landis giving information to the feds, which eventually brought Lance Armstrong down because if it helps cycling, then that’s a good thing. But where do these guys stop lying and start telling the truth? Where is the divide? I don’t know.”

Since the Armstrong affair exploded, McQuaid and former International Council of Arbitration for Sport John Coates have set up and independent commission to investigate claims the UCI was complicit in the doping of Armstrong and others.

“The next step is seeing what the independent commission come up with,” said McQuaid. “But by the way, there’s more mischievous reporting there. That commission was set up to investigate us and how we handled the Lance affair. There’s been mischievous statements coming out from people like Jaimie Fuller, saying the UCI set the terms of reference and gave them to the commission. The UCI did not set the terms; the commission themselves set the terms of reference. The first I saw the terms of reference was an hour before they went public by the commission!

“There’s nothing to hide to hide from my point of view. I do believe, either way, come 2013, Lance will be forgotten anyway. The sport will move on. Look at Wiggins this year. I think the sport is in a very good position. Cycling shouldn’t be judged on the Lance Armstrong story. It should be judged on the Olympic Games, 1.5 million people on the road for the road race, the velodrome was the hottest in terms of atmosphere. The BMX was hugely successful, the mountain biking was hugely successful. The sport is in a great place and is growing. Look at the development in Africa; South America is growing and will grow further because of the Olympic Games in Rio (de Janeiro). Asia is growing with new teams cropping up, so the sport globally is going very well. So I don’t think this is going to have any huge negative effect on the sport. Things are going in the right position.”

Here’s hoping.

Brian Canty lives in Cork, in the south of Ireland, and claims to know the sport of cycling like the inside of a pint glass. When not chasing stories for the Irish Examiner as his day job, he’s either traveling, trying to learn Spanish or riding in the gutter of some country road miles from home.