UCI role under the spotlight

Take a bow UCI, to quote Laurel and Hardy: Here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into.

Ever since Lance Armstrong tested positive for a corticosteroid at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland, people have wondered, is he or isn’t he clean?

Hold on a second, he tested positive? You better believe it.

Yesterday’s detailed findings into systematic blood doping at the US Postal Service team for over 10 years while Armstrong was a key member contained all the evidence necessary to convict the ‘greatest’ sporting fraud of all time. UCI have 21 days to see whether they will uphold the findings but it’s hard to imagine them doing anything else, given the wealth of testimony the USADA uncovered.

Imagine two of his most loyal domestiques, Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie, came out and said a) Armstrong told them he had the above positive test swept under the carpet by the UCI and b) he could use his influence with the governing body to circumvent cycling’s anti-doping laws.

So the well worn line that he never tested positive despite more than 500 tests is complete bull.

If the UCI swept that positive test under the carpet, is it possible they could have done so with more?

The devil is in the detail of the most detailed report into artificial performance enhancing since the 2007 Mitchell report. That was half the length of USADA’s report, by the way.

Fast forward two years to 2003 and little known Irish soigneur with the team, Emma O’Reilly, reveals to David Walsh of The Sunday Times that she was aware of several incidents of doping by Armstrong and the team, which included the Texan’s use of cortisone, which he tested positive for in the first week of that 2003 Tour.

O’Reilly detailed how Armstrong asked her for her make-up prior to a routine check by doctors so he could cover up the marks on his arm from the syringe which injected EPO. The lady Armstrong admired so much early on in his career was later discredited as “a prostitute and an alcoholic” following the revelation.

There are countless examples of such evidence from riders who were part of that most “sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme sport has ever known”, but let’s focus on the UCI for a moment longer.

Armstrong’s comeback year in 2009. The veteran was coming out of retirement to raise awareness for his Livestrong foundation at the Tour Down Under. Fair enough. A disease that affects everyone is a worthy cause.

But more at issue was whether Armstrong would be eligible to compete because according to the UCI’s Article 77 of the Anti-Doping Regulations introduced in 2004, “a retired rider may only return to competition by informing the UCI six months in advance in order to allow him/her to be available for out-of-competition testing”.

Although he said he had previously discussed his return with UCI president Pat McQuaid in late July, Armstrong officially enrolled in the UCI’s required anti-doping programme on August 1, 2008. Therefore, according to the UCI, if it strictly interpreted Article 77, Armstrong “would only be able to return to the sport at international level from February 1, 2009, a week after the end of the Australian event”.

However, the UCI said that progress made in its anti-doping programme since 2004, including the increases in the number of tests, especially out-of-competition, and the introduction of the biological passport, means that riders are now subject to a much-reinforced system of monitoring compared to that of the past.

Which is probably true, but the past refers to a stat that claims on average over the seven years when Lance wore yellow into Paris (1999 to 2005), five of the next seven places in the final standings were occupied by people who have been found guilty of doping!

So this all happened on the UCI’s watch, led by Irishman Pat McQuaid. Last month, McQuaid said: “The UCI has nothing to be apologetic about. UCI has always been the international federation that does the most in the fight against doping.”

So, if they are leading the fight, then a) why did USADA unveil what they did and not the UCI? and b) will the UCI now appeal those findings?


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