World cycling chief Pat McQuaid declared that Lance Armstrong will benefit from no preferential treatment as a doping probe into the American cycling icon appears to gather momentum.
However, McQuaid said that even if Armstrong is eventually found guilty of doping, he will remain one of the biggest champions in the sport.
Armstrong is reportedly at the center of a federal investigation in the United States following doping allegations made by ex-teammate Floyd Landis.
Landis was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France crown after testing positive, and after years of denials the American confessed to doping two months ago in a bid to “clear his conscience.”
In doing so, Landis also implicated Armstrong and other teammates at their former team, U.S. Postal, claiming they were involved in systematic doping practices — allegations which have been denied by Armstrong, who has never tested positive.
UCI president McQuaid said Armstrong has received no special treatment from the UCI.
“He gets the same treatement as everybody else,” McQuaid said. “And if eventually USADA (United States Anti Doping Agency) and the American federation come up with reasons for us to sanction Armstrong in whatever way, we will do so.
“There’s more than Armstrong (implicated). There’s eight or 10 guys mentioned. Why is everybody concentrating on Armstrong?”
McQuaid said he had no contact thus far with federal investigators, but confirmed that several national federations are probing Landis’s claims.
“We will wait for them to tell us the outcome, and then we’ll take whatever action we can within the rules against any rider, no matter how large or how small,” he added.
“And I mean any rider. The rules are the same for everybody.”
McQuaid conceded the sport would suffer a massive blow if Armstrong were to be found guilty of doping.
“I do agree. I agree, but that doesn’t mean that the UCI isn’t going to take whatever action is necessary,” he said.
But he said that whatever happens, Armstrong would remain a “world star”: “One must accept that whatever you think about Armstrong, and whatever he has or hasn’t done, he is a world star.”