RTÉ presenter Pat Kenny (PK) spoke with Pat McQuaid (PM) yesterday over his handling of the Lance Armstrong affair and his role as head of the governing body.
PK: How could Lance Armstrong cheat his way to seven Tour de France titles without the governing body having any idea?
PM: First of all, it’s easy in 2012, with all the tools that we have now in the fight against doping to look back at 2002, 2003 and 2004 and say ‘why didn’t we do this, why didn’t we do that’ but the fact of the matter is, at that time, the tools which we had to fight doping were very limited. There was no EPO test — we were the first to use it in 2001. All we had at that time was, the controls went to the laboratories, the laboratories reported back positive or negative. If it’s positive, we sanction, if it’s negative we didn’t. And that’s as much information as we had. Nowadays we have a lot more information because we have the biological passport, we have blood values, etc. The UCI has admitted to this because we didn’t have the resources.
PK: Hein Verbruggen was at the helm for all seven of Lance’s wins, he’s still honorary president. He said “Lance Armstrong has never used doping, never, never. I say this not because I am a friend of his, that is not true. I say this resign go in order to keep whatever integrity is left of the UCI intact?
PM: Well there’s plenty of integrity left in the UCI Pat. First of all he has corrected that. He never said that Lance Armstrong didn’t dope. Lance Armstrong never tested positive, and that’s correct. Hein Verbruggen is the honorary president like you said, that’s correct. He’s not involved in the UCI. He hasn’t come to a board meeting since 2008. I’m president of the UCI. I run the UCI. I chair the board meetings. I run the show. Hein Verbruggen has absolutely nothing to do with it. There are people out there, particularly in Ireland who are very quick to try and link the two of us together for their needs, wishes and desires.
PK: It strikes people that the UCI were utterly naive despite so many rumours?
PM: The UCI did investigate rumours. Any riders who said anything to the UCI we investigated but we didn’t have police powers and you’re in a situation a lot of the time where it’s ‘he said this’ and he said that’ and there’s very little you can go on. You can’t go much further than that. At the time you test, you target test and the UCI caught many guys and threw them out. Tyler Hamilton was caught and thrown out during that period because he was caught three times I think.
PK: We know there were people who were crying halt, Irish woman Emma O’Reilly, Betsy Andreu, Floyd Landis, why were they not taken more serious by the UCI?
PM: They were taken seriously by the UCI and in actual fact, Frankie Andreu in the FDA case, he stood up as a witness and he failed. I mean Lance Armstrong won that case in a court and when there were several witnesses saying against him that he was doping. So the UCI would be very careful after that taking the same guy into a court because he had already lost a court case.
PK: How appropriate is it that the UCI takes money from riders who might be the subject of sanction from the UCI?
PM: Well first of all, the $100,000 which the UCI used to buy a machine to help anti-doping was donated by Lance Armstrong when he retired in 2005. His career was over at that stage. And I’ve stated this, on reflection at press conferences over the past years, the UCI might have been as well not accepting that money and in actual fact the UCI does accept money from the teams and the riders. Our anti-doping programme costs us €7.5 million per annum. The UCI doesn’t have that kind of money to do it so the teams each pay $120,000 into the system. The riders pay 3% of their prize-money so they’re funding the anti-doping programme. What if Robbie Keane came along to the FAI and said ‘I want to give a million from all of my transfers to set up a schoolboy football scheme up in Tallaght. Would the FAI be wrong to take that?
PK: Is there anything whereby an amnesty for riders who come out and say they doped in the past that they can return to the sport and evade a sanction?
PM: Well it was discussed at a committee meeting in Holland in September and there were a lot of different opinions given on it and in the end the management committee decided that it wouldn’t be appropriate in cycling. Now having said that, I’ve called a special meeting for next Friday where we’re going to reopen the discussion and see where we go.
PK: Do you think the ordinary viewer will look on and wonder now, is that guy on the dope?
PM: Pat, look at the Olympic Games road race this year. There were 1.5 million people on the side of the road. The biggest crowd ever at an event at any event in the history of the Olympic Games. They are fans of cycling, fans of today’s cyclists. I’m here, working for today’s cyclists and tomorrow’s cyclists. The past we’re dealing with and we dealt with yesterday. It will be history next week. I’m working for today’s cycling and the fans are there because they support the sport. The real fans know exactly what cycling does in the fight against doping. The real fans know that there are a lot of other sports out there that are a lot worse than cycling but the focus is not on them.
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