Calls for clarity over Armstrong donations to UCI at height of his drug taking
Published 18/01/2013 | 14:49
CALLS are being made to press for answers to Lance Armstrong's claim that the disgraced rider was asked by the sport's world governing body the UCI to make a donation at the height of his drug-taking.
Brian Cookson, chairman of British Cycling and a member of the UCI's management committee, said it was an error to have accepted any money from a competitor.
Armstrong made a $25,000 (€18,000) donation in 2002, and then another for $100,000 US dollars (€75,000) several years later, the UCI has confirmed. It claims however that it reminded Armstrong of his pledge to make the donation, rather than originally soliciting the cash.
Armstrong, who confessed in a television interview with Oprah Winfrey to doping during all of his seven Tour de France titles, insisted no bribes were paid to the UCI to cover up positive tests.
Asked why he made a donation to the UCI, Armstrong said: "Because they asked me to. It was not in exchange for any cover-up.
"There are things which were a little shady. That was not one."
Cookson said he wanted answers both to Armstrong's claim about the donation and the "shady" dealings.
Cookson said: "I noticed the subtle difference in what has been the accepted course of events so far. Previously it was accepted that he had offered a donation but now he has put it that he was asked for a donation.
"That's potentially quite an important difference.
"I want to know what the actual circumstances were and what other people in seniority have to say about that.
"He did say no bribes were paid to cover up any tests, so I was pleased to hear that."
In relation to Armstrong's claim of "shady" dealings with the UCI, he added: "Let's see the evidence, if there were payments then how illegal, untoward and appropriate were they.
"We want to know who is involved. Let's follow the money and see what did happen.
"My colleagues will not tolerate any malpractice, they will want to root it out, sanction and get rid of those responsible."
Cookson stepped back from saying that International Olympic Committee member Hein Verbruggen, UCI president at the time and still honorary president and committee member, should resign as a result. He also backed current president Pat McQuaid's efforts in tackling doping in recent years.
Cookson said: "The idea they accepted money from Lance at the height of his success for anti-doping education and equipment was certainly an error of judgement and I cannot imagine what they were thinking at the time.
"But I am not going to be calling for Hein Verbruggen's resignation.
"I think mistakes were made during the Lance Armstrong era, but it was a difficult time because EPO was then undetectable."
A UCI spokesman insisted the governing body had not first approached Armstrong for a donation.
He said: "In 2005 he gave a commitment about a donation for $100,000 and never paid and two years later we reminded him of that commitment, and then he made this donation."
After years of denials, Armstrong told Winfrey that during his record run, from 1999 to 2005, he used blood-boosting agent EPO, blood doping, testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone.
He also admitted to being a liar and bully as he tried to perpetuate his myth.
He said: "I view this situation as one big lie."
Armstrong, who was last October stripped of all results dating from August 1, 1998 and banned from sport for life, denied doping during his comeback from retirement in 2009, when he finished third in the Tour.
The myth of the cancer survivor turned serial winner, which Armstrong perpetuated, captivated millions but he said recovering from the disease gave him a win-at-all-costs attitude.
Asked if it was hard to live up to that image, Armstrong said: "Impossible. The story is so bad and so toxic, a lot of it's true.
"I try to take myself out of this situation and look at it: you overcome the disease, you win the Tour de France seven times, you have a happy marriage, you have children.
"It's this mythic, perfect story and it wasn't true."
He claimed that doping was so common in cycling that it was "like saying we have to have air in our tyres, we have to have water in our bottles."
Armstrong added: "I looked up the definition of cheating and the definition is 'to gain an advantage on a rival or foe'. I did not view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field."
In the interview with Winfrey, recorded on Monday in his home city of Austin, Texas, Armstrong was asked why he chose to confess his misdemeanours now.
"I don't know that I have a great answer," he said.
"This is too late. It's too late for probably most people and that's my fault."
Asked whether he felt it was possible to win the Tour seven times in succession without doping, Armstrong said: "Not in my opinion."
He added: "I didn't invent the culture (of doping), but I didn't try to stop the culture. The sport is now paying the price because of that."
Verbruggen claimed the television interview showed the UCI had not been involved in complicity.
He told the ANP news agency: "After years of suspicion, I'm happy that this conspiracy was in the end nothing more than an unsubstantiated theory. Those who accused or suspected us are obviously disappointed. Nothing was ever hidden,.
"It's a good thing that Lance Armstrong has finally admitted doping. It's not a surprise that he did it."