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Ashenden: McQuaid misleading public over Armstrong’s biological passport

Aussie blood doping expert says UCI derelict in its clean sporting duties if it did not put Armstrong's passport out for expert review

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BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — The war of words between anti-doping expert Dr. Michael Ashenden and the leadership at cycling’s global governing body raged on Wednesday, as Ashenden said the UCI was misleading the public over Lance Armstrong’s blood values during his comeback.

In a press release that reads more like a salvo, Ashenden tore into the sport’s governing body and its president, Pat McQuaid, calling its perceived failure to examine the Texan’s blood data after the 2009 Tour de France “derelict.”

“If the UCI failed to examine Armstrong’s raw data when he placed third at the 2009 Tour de France, the UCI were derelict in their obligations to faithfully run the passport on behalf of the riders, teams and race organizers who contribute 85 percent of the costs of running the passport program. Those stakeholders deserve to know that their program is being run by competent and diligent managers,” Ashenden wrote. “If, on the other hand, the UCI did examine Armstrong’s raw data but failed to recognize that flat line blood values in tandem with suppressed bone marrow activity in the third place getter of a major tour was consistent with the possible use of blood transfusion, they have proven themselves to be biologically illiterate. This immediately puts into question the veracity of the UCI’s repeated statements that their interpretation of the peloton’s blood values indicates a decrease in the extent of doping since 2008. There could be 50 cyclists doping like Armstrong and the biologically blind UCI could be completely unaware of their existence.”

Ashenden also wrote that the UCI looked to dodge responsibility by putting forward “the limp excuse” that Armstrong’s blood profile was never shared with experts because the computers didn’t flag it for review.

“The UCI also sought to shift responsibility by claiming that the decision on which passports to share with experts were made by the Lausanne laboratory, not the UCI. However, Pat McQuaid has previously stated that the UCI do themselves also examine the raw data from passports (for example, in Pat McQuaid’s open letter to cyclists on 17 May 2011). The UCI have also repeatedly claimed to target test their riders based on information gleaned directly from their blood profiles,” he wrote.

The controversy surrounding Armstrong’s blood data multiplied over the past weeks, with a multitude of factors contributing to escalation. First, Armstrong admitted to doping his way to seven Tour de France victories (that have since been erased), but adamantly denied he used performance enhancing drugs during his comeback, in 2009 and 2010.

The U.S. Anti-Doping didn’t see it that way, with Travis Tygart, its CEO, saying there was slimmer than a one-in-a-million chance Armstrong’s blood samples would occur naturally.

Meanwhile, Ashenden, who reviewed blood data for the UCI until his resignation in 2012, publicly questioned the depth of the program, and McQuaid told VeloNews in an interview that Ashenden may have even seen an Armstrong profile himself, to which Ashenden took umbrage. In fact, he did review an Armstrong sample and marked it as normal, well before the 2009 Tour. It now appears Armstrong’s blood panel was never reviewed after May 2009.

“The President of the International Cycling Union, Pat McQuaid, has been deceitful and deliberately misled the public and media about Lance Armstrong’s suspicious blood values during his comeback in 2009 and 2010,” Ashenden wrote. “During the last 24 hours the UCI have been forced to admit that they never sent Armstrong’s suspicious blood values to their expert panel for scrutiny. This admission flatly contradicts an interview Pat McQuaid gave to the website VeloNews five days ago, in which he gave assurances that all of Armstrong’s blood values had been reviewed by the experts and found to be normal.”

Ashenden also pointed to a perceived conflict of interest within the governing body on Wednesday.

“The fact that the UCI demanded $100,000 from Armstrong, and later failed to share his suspicious blood results with their expert panel, is a damning pair of facts that must be scrutinized by an independent agency,” he wrote. “Because Armstrong’s blood results were also accessed by the Lausanne laboratory, who were given a free analyzer paid for by Armstrong, their involvement in this highly questionable scenario must also be included in a forensic scrutiny of the triangular relationship between the laboratory, Armstrong and the UCI.”

The UCI has not responded to questions on the matter regarding its anti-doping protocols. Armstrong representatives declined to comment on the fight between the UCI and Ashenden over his blood data.