Report slams UCI for not applying doping rules
Going after the cheats in cycling was perceived by the UCI 'as a witch-hunt that would be detrimental to the image of cycling,' according to the publication of Cycling's Independent Reform Commission's investigation into the sport's world governing body yesterday.
While the long-awaited report revealed that it found no proof of UCI corruption regarding two payments made to the UCI by Lance Armstrong and several suspicious anti-doping results regarding various riders, it did reveal a failure by the world governing body to apply its own anti-doping rules properly during the presidency of Irishman Pat McQuaid and his predecessor Hein Verbruggen.
The report states that teams were 'informed on occasion what new (anti-doping) analysis techniques would be applied at races' and that 'UCI also provided intelligence obtained through the analyses of the samples to riders.
Instead of using this information to perform target testing on suspicious athletes, the athlete would be warned, and sometimes in case of important riders even invited to the UCI headquarters to discuss the 'abnormal values'.
It also concluded that Armstrong and former world road race champion Laurent Brochard should both have faced disciplinary action after Brochard tested positive for lidocaine following his 1997 world championship win and Armstrong tested positive for corticosteroids during the 2009 Tour de France. Both were covered up by backdated prescriptions, accepted by the UCI.
The commission also disclosed that no fewer than 25 other riders also tested positive for corticosteroids during the 1999 Tour, with two other unnamed riders also providing backdated prescriptions.
While McQuaid's introduction of the biological passport and other anti-doping measures, including out-of-competition testing, was praised in the report, the Dubliner came under fire for another breach of UCI rules when he allowed Armstrong to come out of retirement and compete in the Tour Down Under in 2009, for a fee of $1m, despite not having been on the UCI testing list for the prescribed period of time prior to his comeback.
Despite an initial statement by McQuaid that Armstrong would not be allowed to compete in Australia, the then UCI president changed his mind and the commission found 'a temporal link' between McQuaid's decision to allow the Texan back to the sport early and Armstrong's decision to ride the financially hit 2009 Tour of Ireland - an event run by McQuaid's brother Darach - later that year.
While admitting that he made some mistakes during his presidency, which ran from 2005-13, McQuaid disagrees that Armstrong's participation at the Tour of Ireland was a trade-off for his early acceptance back to the sport.
"There's no link between Lance riding the Tour Down Under and Tour of Ireland," he insisted.
McQuaid added: "When I took over as president of the UCI, one of my main aims was to fight against doping. Everybody knows that, and everybody knows the work that I have done in the fight against doping, and UCI is now one of the leading international federations in the fight against doping, and the legacy I have left behind there, I am quite proud of.
"There are plenty of decisions I took during my time as president of the UCI that now, looking back on it, I would have done differently."