LOS ANGELES (AFP) — The Union Cycliste Internationale likely turned a blind eye to alleged doping by Lance Armstrong and others, the former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency has suggested.
Richard Pound said he complained for years to the UCI that Armstrong and other cyclists were given advance notice of their drug tests and then allowed to go off unsupervised.
“It is not credible that they didn’t know this was going on,” Pound told AFP in an interview Friday. “I had been complaining to UCI for years.”
Pound, who was head of WADA from 1999 to 2007, said drug testers would visit riders in the early morning, hours before they had to appear for a competition.
“The race starts at 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the afternoon and there are no tests prior to the race to see if they are bumped up,” he said.
After races, he said, competitors had an unchaperoned hour before being tested.
“So then you go in and get saline solutions and other means of hiding the effects (of) EPO and whatever else it is,” he said.
“You have to say, ‘I wonder if it was designed not to be successful?’”
Pound’s comments come in the wake of a damning U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that charged Armstrong with orchestrating the most complex doping scheme in sports history.
Released Wednesday, USADA’s report contained detailed allegations about Armstrong’s supposed use of testosterone, human growth hormone, blood doping and EPO, and included sworn statements from 26 people, including 11 former teammates.
“Where the rubber really hits the road is with UCI,” Pound said, adding that if the world governing body were to “persist with denial” investigations may spread to the Spanish and Italian pro cycling communities, among others, and “put their whole sport in jeopardy.”
“All these show the same behavior as (U.S. Postal Service) and UCI never seemed to be able to deal with it,” said Pound. “They can’t be so blind to not know this was going on.”
Earlier this week, UCI president Pat McQuaid told AFP that the sport has moved on from its murky past and better tests meant riders were now much cleaner than in previous years, which are the focus since Armstrong was labeled a serial drug cheat by USADA.
“The sport has moved on,” McQuaid said. “The peloton today is completely different.”
Pound, in reference to the USADA report, said he was dismayed by the scope and vivid details of the doping practices attributed to Armstrong and his U.S. Postal Service teammates.
“I thought it was a very thoroughly researched report with evidence sworn or otherwise,” said Pound, who remains on WADA’s 38-member Foundation Board.
“I was disappointed to see the extent of the scheme and of the conspiracy and the large number of people involved in it.”
Armstrong has always maintained that he did not use banned substances during his career, but in August he chose not to go to arbitration over USADA’s charges.
The American’s days of hiring big-ticket lawyers to muzzle critics might be coming to an end, Pound suggested.
“I don’t think it is credible for Armstrong to say ‘all 26 of these people are liars and cheats and ax grinders,’” he said in reference to the sworn statements in the USADA report. “I am afraid his time has just run out on that.
“What is going to be a surprise is (if) after all this, Lance persists in saying he never did it. He’s already lost in the court of public opinion.
“You got to hope he will … admit ‘I was the best of the worst.’”
Still, Pound said many Armstrong supporters, especially in the United States, are likely to dismiss the USADA report.
“There are a lot of people who have a big emotional investment in Armstrong,” he said. “They don’t want to know that he was a cheater … but if the pedestal he is on proves to be something he got by cheating, it isn’t much of a pedestal.”
Pound urged the 41-year-old cancer survivor to speak out against the use of performance-enhancing drugs, especially for the sake of his five children.
“You (have) got to hope he will say … kids, you shouldn’t do this to be a good cyclist.”