Sunday 22 October 2017

Whistleblowers are 'scumbags' -- cycling boss

Distant glory: Lance Armstrong rides down the Champs Elysees with team-mates Georges Hincapie and Tyler Hamilton after winning the 2001 Tour de France. Photo: AP
Distant glory: Lance Armstrong rides down the Champs Elysees with team-mates Georges Hincapie and Tyler Hamilton after winning the 2001 Tour de France. Photo: AP

Cycling attempted to condemn the Lance Armstrong era to history but the recriminations remain, with the president of the sport's governing body labelling some of the riders whose confessions helped bring down the seven-time Tour de France winner as "scumbags".

Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), accused Tyler Hamilton, a former Armstrong team-mate, of cashing in on the scandal by writing whistle-blowing books. He reserved the same treatment for Floyd Landis, saying this former Armstrong team-mate only admitted the extent of doping when pressed by the American federal authorities.

Armstrong has been formally stripped of his Tour de France titles by the UCI and banned from the sport as McQuaid's organisation accepted the findings of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

A large part of their case was built around testimony from 26 witnesses, including 11 former team-mates. Landis and Hamilton provided powerful evidence of Armstrong's widespread use of blood transfusions and banned substances, as well as his part in masterminding the conspiracy which enabled his United States Postal Service and Discovery teams evade the UCI dope testers.

But despite praising them earlier in the day for coming forward, McQuaid could not conceal his contempt for both men, and other riders, who have attacked the UCI.

"(David) Millar was in the press conference and asked the UCI to apologise. I don't think the UCI should apologise," said McQuaid in a tirade. "They didn't hold his hand when he stuck a needle in his backside. He is an adult and they know they are breaking the rules. It's not the president's responsibility if they go into a doping programme.

"Another thing that annoys me is that Landis and Hamilton are being made out to be heroes. They are as far from heroes as night and day. They are not heroes. They are scumbags. All they have done is damage to the sport."

Anger

McQuaid retracted the word "scumbags" but his anger was barely concealed as he admitted the sport was facing its biggest crisis. He expanded on his criticism of Hamilton whose book 'The Secret Race' closely resembled much of the evidence.

"We called Hamilton in (after he failed a dope test)," said McQuaid. "He said our machines were wrong. We said 'we are after you'.

"He was positive two, maybe three times, eventually he was thrown out of the sport. He then spends the next few years trying to prove he was a twin before he was born or something like that and prove the scientific community wrong.

"He loses his marriage and his money. What does he do now? Writes a book just before the USADA is announced and is making money left, right and centre. What good is he doing the sport? He's on a personal mission to make money for himself."

The UCI will meet on Friday to discuss further the findings of the Usada report and what to do next. One option is to reduce the size of Tour de France teams to make a conspiracy harder to implement.

The UCI will also decide whether to sue Armstrong for the millions of pounds of prize money. They will also decide if they will award Armstrong's Tour victories to other riders.

McQuaid was sure-footed when criticising Armstrong saying he "deserved to be forgotten by cycling" but less assured when answering questions about payments the board received from Armstrong totalling more than £100,000.

The first payment of $25,000 was made just after he was found to have a "suspicious" sample during the Tour of Switzerland in 2001.

Armstrong then paid another $100,000 to provide blood testing machines to help dopers find EPO. McQuaid admitted it may have been a mistake to take Armstrong's money but denied it was to hush up dope test results.

"We are not an agency or organisation that has unlimited funds," he said.

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