Those were the words of UCI President Pat McQuaid today, as he announced that the UCI would confirm USADA’s ruling on disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, taking his seven Tour de France titles away.
There had been speculation that there would be a challenge to the six-month bans handed down to Armstrong’s former teammates (Zabriskie, Hincapie, Barry, Leipheimer, Vande Velde and Danielson), some even wondered whether there would be a challenge to the ruling itself (a crazy move, most would agree) after the staggering attempts from McQuaid to block the justice process against Armstrong. However, in the UCI’s Detailed Statement which was issued after the press conference, the governing body accepted USADA’s jurisdiction, stating that it will not challenge any part of USADA’s ruling.
“After consideration of the reasoned decision by USADA and its appendices, the UCI has decided not to appeal to CAS.
The UCI has considered the following main issues: jurisdiction, the statute of limitations, the evidence gathered by USADA and the sanctions imposed upon Mr Armstrong.”
The jurisdiction of the case was deemed “no longer an issue”, the evidence in the form of witness statements gave the UCI “no reason to appeal” although the UCI are criticised several times in said evidence, and the sanctions handed down were also of no issue to the UCI. The statement does note that had the UCI been in charge of the investigation “it would have limited disciplinary proceedings to violations asserted to have occurred during the eight years preceding the opening of proceedings.” There is therefore a chance that WADA will appeal the sanctions based on the fact that the removal of results goes beyond the eight-year statute of limitations as designated in the WADA Code. This remains to be seen, however.
McQuaid announced that there would be an extraordinary meeting of the UCI Management Committee on Friday, in which they will discuss “the exact consequences of this decision on the rankings.” This will include the destination of the Tour de France from 1999-2005 – leaving the records blank has been favoured by the Tour’s director Christian Prudhomme, while another option is to hand the titles to the runners-up.
The future for disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong
Now that it is official – Lance Armstrong is a doping cheat – he stands to lose a fair bit of cash. Everybody remembers the SCA case right? Well, the company have already made it clear that they will be making a formal demand for the return of the $7.5million they paid him for winning the Tour de France in 2004. “If this is not successful, we will initiate formal legal proceedings against Mr Armstrong in five business days (Monday 29 October).” Another possible lawsuit could come from The Sunday Times, which he successfully sued in 2004 after David Walsh wrote about him. Add in potential perjury charges and no doubt more lawsuits and this isn’t the end of the damage for Lance.
The press conference
To be fair, it started off well. The announcement that the UCI wouldn’t contest USADA’s charges came and went, with Pat strongly stating that “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling” and that he “deserves to be forgotten”. McQuaid told of how he was sickened by what he had read in the USADA report, and singled out Dave Zabriskie’s testimony, saying that “The story he told of how he was coerced and, to some extent, forced into doping is just mind-boggling.”
After the initial promise, however, things reverted to type and phrases that we hear from our governing body after every scandal began to pop out. There was talk of the UCI “doing more testing” than other organisations, how “cycling has come a long way” and that “the culture is changing.” The lack of power on the UCI’s behalf was also rued, with Pat saying that “it would be wonderful if the UCI had police powers, but we don’t.”
There were justification, some lies and blame-shifting, as Pat said that he wasn’t President of the UCI during the Armstrong years, saying he can only account for his own time at the top. Perhaps forgetting that he served as President of the UCI Road Commission between 1998 and 2005. Several times the distinction was drawn between McQuaid’s time as President and his predecessor Verbruggen’s. Odd indeed, as Pat was in charge when Lance gave these obviously dodgy blood values on his comeback.
Those same blood values were dismissed by McQuaid – he stated that he didn’t accept the USADA’s findings that Armstrong had been doping in 2009 and 2010. He handed over to lawyer Philippe Verbiest (this was to become a pattern as the tough questions came), who confirmed this stance. Either the parameters of the passport are just another version of the 50% rule (catches the stupid, but can be avoided) or that profiles can be ignored at will (Michael Ashenden was unsure if Lance’s values were ever assessed)
There was talk of the system not being up to scratch when Lance was riding, with Pat saying that the UCI did all they could do to catch the cheats. It was hard to take seriously when we were asked to believe in the same system to catch cheats today. Elements of the broken system were brought up later on in the press conference, with Pat citing Steve Houanard as proof that doping will never quite go away. Houanard took EPO to try and score WorldTour points at the Tour of Beijing in order to get a contract for next year. A casualty of the UCI’s system that forces teams aspiring to the WorldTour to sign riders with the points to get them there.
We finally learnt about Lance’s samples at the 2001 Tour de Suisse. As it turns out, a document released today (see below) shows that he did not test positive. However, he did have suspicious results, according to the laboratory’s director, though not enough to trigger a positive test. This neatly segues into the part of the press conference in which McQuaid was most flustered as questions turned towards the subject of Lance’s donations to the UCI.
The UCI accepted money from Armstrong after these suspicious results, something which David Bond of the BBC asked about. He was met with a rather angry and confused response from McQuaid, in which he justified accepting money from Armstrong by stuttering through “We accepted it because w-we we we c-we used the money to to assist the fight against doping.” McQuaid also said that the donation was done openly, which is an outright lie. Anyone remember the story of reporters not being allowed to see the Sysmex machine receipt?
There was also a quite a shock as he said that the UCI would accept donations from riders today, noting that the federation was not as rich as FIFA. So apparently corruption is more acceptable the poorer the federation.
This exchange comes at around 40 minutes into the video at the bottom.
There was a veiled shot at Michael Ashenden, who McQuaid said would be “better served working on a test for blood transfusions” than “sitting on the fence yknow.. shouting yknow.. or giving advice.. political advice to the UCI and this, that and the other.” What a way with words. Ashenden resigned from the UCI’s Blood Passport Committee in April as he refused to accept a confidentiality clause preventing him from expressing his doubts in the system, later stating that he had noticed months passing between tests in some cases (for example Carlos Barredo, currently under investigation, was tested only once this year).
There was some talk of the future of anti-doping, with steroid profiles and autologous blood transfusion detection mentioned by UCI Medical Advisor Dr. Mario Zorzoli. This was vague, however, with no promises being made and no indication as to how developed these methods currently are.
The subject of Paul Kimmage was brought up by Sky Sports’ Orla Chennaoui, with McQuaid confirming the action will go ahead. He stated that the case nothing to do with the USADA or Lance, but was instead about defamation against him and his predecessor. You can donate to the Kimmage Defense Fund over at cyclismas.com.
Finally, there was news of a series of meeting that will take place in December. First up, the UCI will meet with race organisers to discuss the ramifications of the case, with a meeting with all ProTeams and ProContinental teams to follow the next day. McQuaid said that the riders will be listened to, so lets hope some of the guys below make their voices heard.
Reaction from the peloton
Numerous riders have praised the decision on Twitter. Saur-Sojasun’s Jimmy Engoulvent, who has previously expressed strong opinions on the case, jokingly talked of how he now has a career-best of 137th in the 2004 Tour. German sprinter Marcel Kittel meanwhile talks of keeping the future in mind so the sport doesn’t make the same mistake again.
William Bonnet (tweet 1, tweet 2) rued how those who have cheated are still damaging the current peloton – as we have seen with the pulling out of Rabobank. Samuel Dumoulin (tweet 1, tweet 2) has been one of the more vocal riders, saying that the UCI should withdraw from the fight against doping and establishing and independent regulator. Dumoulin’s teammate at Cofidis Yoann Bagot (tweet 1, tweet 2) says that maybe if Lance and Ferrari had worked as hard for the fight against doping as they did to circumvent controls, then there might be less cheaters.
Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank investor/sponsor Oleg Tinkov echoed Dumoulin’s statements, saying that new UCI management is needed, and that McQuaid should leave. David Millar has come out and reiterated his stance on Hein Verbruggen. In this interview with Sky Sports News, he says this of the Honorary President “he will be disgusted if he has a future” and also says that he says he is “pleased it (the decision) has happened”.
At the other end of the scale, Samuel Sánchez opened his mouth and removed all doubt on Spanish TV, “If Armstrong hasn’t tested positive there is no reason to sanction him.”
A good day for the sport in that we finally see Lance Armstrong become a disgraced cyclist, but one in which we have been reminded of many more problems. The UCI are still willing to take money from the very riders it governs, there is still uncertainty surrounding the reliability of the biological passport, and no signs of change in the way the UCI deals with things.
We also saw McQuaid point blank refuse to consider suggestions that anti-doping should be carried out by an independent body (something which needs to happen for anyone to have faith in the UCI to govern the sport properly), and also said that the UCI will wait for the Padova inquiry to move on rather than investigate any of the riders linked to it.
We still have cause to be worried about the future of the sport.
The UCI’s press release can be found here. It includes information about testing, the 1999 cortisone positive, clarification on the infamous Tour de Suisse samples, USADA testing numbers and more.
A recording of the historic press conference can be seen below. Thanks to the guys at cyclismas.com