UCI sends mixed message to Armstrong and fellow dopers over their place in cycling

The UCI's position on dopers returning to the sport as management is clear as mud after Monday's Armstrong press conference

GENEVA (VN) — The UCI sent mixed messages today when it confirmed that Lance Armstrong would lose all seven Tour de France wins. President Pat McQuaid said that Armstrong has no place in cycling, but left the door open for other dopers.

“[The UCI] will recognize the sanction that USADA has imposed,” said McQuaid. “The UCI will ban Lance Armstrong from cycling and the UCI will strip him of his seven titles. Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling.”

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency sent its investigation files to the UCI on October 10, calling for the federation to erase all of Armstrong’s results since August 1, 1998, and enforce a lifetime ban. As part of the 202-page “Reasoned Decision” file it posted on the Internet, USADA said it received testimonies from 15 cyclists. Of the group, 11 former Armstrong teammates also admitted to doping: Frankie Andreu, Michael Barry, Tom Danielson, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer, Stephen Swart, Christian Vande Velde, Jonathan Vaughters and David Zabriskie.

Several have already retired, Barry most recently calling it quits in September. However, Leipheimer, Danielson, Vande Velde and Zabriskie are pushing ahead after serving reduced bans for helping the USADA investigation. The former three race for Vaughters’ Garmin-Sharp team and will continue, but Leipheimer is struggling for his place in cycling.

Omega Pharma-Quick Step terminated his contract last week “in the light of the disclosures.” Leipheimer, as with many of the others, admitted to using EPO. He said in the USADA decision that he was helped using EPO by team manager Johan Bruyneel and team doctors.

“I was sickened by what I read in the USADA report,” McQuaid said. “One example, David Zabriskie, the story he told of how he was coerced and forced into doping was just mind boggling. I found it hard to accept, it was difficult, but I do accept that it did go on.”

Armstrong’s long-time friend and team manager, Johan Bruyneel faces numerous charges as well, including encouraging his riders to dope. After the Postal Service and Discovery teams folded, he continued leading teams, acting as general manager for RadioShack-Nissan through this year. The team cut ties with him after USADA published its “Reasoned Decision.”

Bruyneel decided to defend himself to an arbitration panel, due to be heard in the coming month. McQuaid said, “Bruyneel’s case is still on-going; I don’t want to comment on it until the case is concluded.” McQuaid sent mixed signals, however, when he condemned Armstrong, but said that others accused of cheating may serve a purpose in cycling.

“Bjarne Riis has his place in cycling,” said McQuaid. “He admitted to doping and admitted to his past, and he is trying to use his past to create a better future for the sport. There is a big difference (between Riis and Armstrong), at this moment, Lance Armstrong has not admitted.”

Riis admitted to doping in 2007, but continues to head Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank. Vaughters continues to receive support from his sponsors. Matt White, however, admitted he doped during his time in Armstrong’s teams and lost his job as Australia’s national team director. He may also lose his post as Orica-GreenEdge sports director, as the team investigates.

“There are two views, one which team Sky took, that they don’t want anyone involved with doping in their team, or where people recognize that those people can help the sport move forward,” said McQuaid. “Some of those are helping the sport after admitting the doping. So I think it is possible they can have a place in the sport.”

Despite applauding the efforts of Riis and Vaughters, McQuaid mixed the message when he reminded the nearly 100 journalists gathered that in June 2011, the UCI created a rule that prevents dope cheats from taking a management position. He added, “So anybody that tests positive since that rule was put into place, there is no place for them in the sport afterwards.”