Hard to believe UCI were clueless

UCI president Pat McQuaid and his predecessor Hein Vergrubben didn’t get to where they are by talking first and thinking second...at least you’d hope not anyway.

Hard to believe UCI were clueless

The pair have held the loftiest office in cycling since 1991 (McQuaid since September 2005) but that period — almost a quarter of a century, can only be described as an unmitigated disaster.

If, as they say, they are the one’s at the forefront of the anti-doping movement, the purveyors of a cutting-edge system designed to snare cheats, then why, or how can it be, that 20 of the 21 podium finishers at the Tour de France during the period from 1999-2005 were implicated in doping by a subsequent investigation — and just one of these had a positive test with the UCI.

Here’s another one. In upholding the findings of USADA, then what about Tyler Hamilton’s claim, substantiated by Floyd Landis, that Armstrong used his influence with the UCI during the 2001 Tour de Suisse to wriggle his way out of a pickle — he’d tested positive for a banned substance that was swept under the carpet after he used said influence.

Tyler and Floyd were both ridiculed and laughed at by the suits in Switzerland — Hell, Floyd found himself with letters threatening legal action if he kept up his chatter about how “corrupt” the UCI were.

There have been so many warning signs since the start of this decade it’s very difficult for any neutral observer to believe the UCI were as clueless about doping as they said they were. “Shocked” and “sickened” are two words from McQuaid that don’t sit well with me. This was the worst kept secret in sport’s history. That response was equally shocking and sickening for those at the receiving end of it. Floyd’s e-mails, Armstrong’s blood values, Mike Ashenden’s testimony, Betsy Andreu’s evidence. The list is endless. These were people putting their hands up. Ignored, one after another.

Not long after Lance escaped sanction from that 2001 Tour de Suisse, a donation of £62,000 was accepted by the UCI from Armstrong to help fight the scourge of doping. Surely, even if it was as innocent as McQuaid said it was yesterday, it sends out the wrong message? Another red flag.

Yesterday was an admission from the UCI USADA cleaned up a mess the former presided over. But it should never have gotten that far and they’ve only themselves to blame. It must be remembered that, over the last number of months, the UCI have performed quite an extraordinary about-turn. First they were content for USADA to run the case against Armstrong; then they intervened seeking to derail USADA who launched their case in February after the FDA dropped all charges relating to criminal activity by the US Postal Service team.

The UCI were standoffish, claiming the matter was part of USADA’s jurisdiction. Fair enough. However that stance changed after charges were brought against Armstrong and several other individuals including his former team director Johan Bruyneel. The UCI and Armstrong subsequently lost a legal battle, and Armstrong decided not to contest USADA charges in August. Bolstering the credence that USADA meant business — far more so than the UCI.

As for Armstrong himself, the rope is down to it’s final threads. The American or the World Anti-doping Agency could yet take the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport but that is extremely unlikely given the weight of evidence against the Texan.

Now, he cuts an increasingly isolated figure and many of his lifelong friends are deserting him. Yesterday Oakley ended their sponsorship of the 41-year-old, joining Nike, Anheuser-Busch, Trek, Giro and RadioShack. Who’d bet against a confession? Now that would keep some senior figures in the sport awake with worry at night.

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