GHENT, Belgium (VN) — UCI officials are anxiously waiting to see what Lance Armstrong has to say.
In a press statement released Tuesday, cycling’s governing body said it would not publicly comment on Armstrong’s alleged doping confession until officials watch it themselves.
Media reports Monday said Armstrong has confessed to doping throughout his career during a taped interview with Oprah Winfrey, set to broadcast Thursday.
On Tuesday, UCI officials urged Armstrong to collaborate with a UCI-appointed commission that is reviewing how cycling’s governing body handled the doping issue during the Armstrong era.
The UCI might not like what the disgraced cyclist has to say, however.
The New York Times reported Monday that Armstrong might collaborate with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and testify against UCI officials, suggesting that some may have helped in the doping conspiracy.
The Times also reported that Armstrong is considering helping a federal whistleblower case against his former bosses at U.S. Postal Service.
If true, any sort of Armstrong testimony against the UCI could have devastating effects.
The UCI has vehemently denied any collusion with Armstrong and said it used all available tools to prevent doping.
Since the USADA case blew up last fall, however, the UCI has come under heavy pressure from many who insist that cycling’s governing body at best buried its head in the sand during the EPO era, or, even worse, actively helped Armstrong avoid doping tests.
The UCI has taken fire for accepting donations from Armstrong of up to $125,000. Both current president Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen, who led the UCI during Armstrong’s seven-year dominance of the Tour de France from 1999-2005, strongly deny suggestions of payoffs.
UCI officials say they did nothing wrong, but admitted accepting the money, insisting it was in order to buy anti-doping testing equipment.
Former Armstrong teammates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton both suggest the UCI helped Armstrong cover up a positive EPO test from the 2001 Tour de Suisse. It remains to be seen if Armstrong will corroborate those damning charges.
In response to a barrage of criticism, the UCI appointed a commission in October to conduct an internal review of the cycling body’s conduct during the Armstrong era. A report is due June 1.
That effort will surely not satisfy the UCI’s fiercest critics. A group of anti-doping activists called Change Cycling Now met in London in December to outline cycling’s future in the post-Armstrong era. Central to the group’s platform are calls for change of leadership at the UCI.
In October, the UCI confirmed Armstrong’s lifetime ban, with McQuaid saying that the Texan “has no place in cycling … he deserves to be forgotten in cycling.”
What’s abundantly clear is that the Armstrong affair is not going to be forgotten anytime soon.
Full UCI statement:
The UCI will not be making any further comments on matters concerning Lance Armstrong until it has had the opportunity to view his much-publicized interview with Oprah Winfrey.
The UCI notes the media speculation surrounding the interview and reports that he has finally come clean and admitted doping during his cycling career.
If these reports are true, we would strongly urge Lance Armstrong to testify to the Independent Commission established to investigate the allegations made against the UCI in the recent USADA reasoned decision on Lance Armstrong and the United States Postal Service (USPS) team.