CHANGPING, China (VN) — UCI president Pat McQuaid got a rough welcome Friday upon arrival for the final days of the Tour of Beijing.
The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s case against Lance Armstrong cast long shadows over the UCI-backed Beijing tour as well as over the cycling federation’s legacy during the Armstrong era.
McQuaid acknowledged that the UCI had received the official USADA dossier and said that its legal team is busy scouring the 1,000-plus pages of the scathing report.
“We have 21 days to read it and evaluate it. I have made it a priority within the legal department to get that done,” McQuaid said. “Within that 21 days we will come back with an analysis and some decisions. It would be wrong of me to preempt, to second guess what our lawyers are going to advise us about, so that’s as much as I want to say right now.”
That wasn’t enough for the group of journalists attending the five-day Beijing tour, who tried to pry more out of the Irishman.
Have you read it? “I am not saying anything more.”
Are you disappointed in Lance Armstrong? “I am not saying anymore than that. The UCI has 21 days to make its decision. That is the appropriate time to make a statement.”
With that, McQuaid abruptly walked away and refused to answer more questions.
Hein Verbruggen, who served as UCI president through 2005, returned to the Beijing tour on Friday following a two-day absence, but he refused to answer questions from reporters at the start of the stage.
The UCI has the right to appeal the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Whether it does so will be closely watched.
The USADA report puts the UCI under the microscope on several key points within its wide-ranging, comprehensive chronicle of evidence of the alleged doping ring spanning more than a decade.
The USADA report cites several examples of how Armstrong and his doping network would take advantage of close ties with the UCI and cites evidence that the UCI was not interested in pursuing tip-offs from riders about doping practices within the sport.
Those allegations are sure to ruffle feathers within the UCI’s headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland.
The most alarming incident infers that Armstrong was able to cover up a positive EPO test during the 2001 Tour de Suisse by bribing the UCI.
The USADA report cites testimony from both Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis outlining Armstrong’s claim. A citation on page 51 of the “Reasoned Decision” relates the story:
Armstrong told both Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis that he had tested positive for EPO at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland and stated or implied that he had been able to make the EPO test result go away. Armstrong’s conversation with Hamilton was in 2001, and he told Hamilton “his people had been in touch with UCI, they were going to have a meeting and everything was going to be ok.”
Armstrong’s conversation with Landis was in 2002, and Landis recalled Armstrong saying that, “he and Mr. Bruyneel flew to the UCI headquarters and made a financial agreement to keep the positive test hidden.”
McQuaid has repeatedly denied there were any bribes or payoffs passed off to the UCI in exchange for a cover-up.
The UCI has admitted it received two payments totaling $125,000 from Armstrong that were used, as McQuaid insists, for education and anti-doping efforts.
The USADA report also reveals how Belgian team manager Johan Bruyneel was able to get tipped-off well ahead of UCI-sanctioned doping controls, but stops short of fingering the UCI as the source of the information.
On page 138, the report reads:
Also, the team staff was good at being able to predict when riders would be tested and seemed to have inside information about the testing. For instance, according to David Zabriskie, “Johan [Bruyneel] always seemed to know when drug testers were coming at races. His warning that ‘they’re coming tomorrow’ came on more than one occasion.” Jonathan Vaughters said, “[t]he Postal Service staff, including Johan and the soigneurs seemed to have an outstanding early warning system regarding drug tests. We typically seemed to have an hour’s advance notice prior to tests. There was plenty of time in advance of tests to use saline to decrease our hematocrit level.”
The dossier also reveals that the French anti-doping agency (AFLD), which conducted joint testing with the UCI during the 2009 Tour de France, wrote in an official report that “the Astana team, of which Lance Armstrong was a member, benefited from privileged information or timing advantages during doping control tests.”
The USADA report also highlights an instance when “doping control testers were delayed by UCI officials for at least 30 minutes in testing the Astana team. On another occasion, appropriate confidentiality regarding the timing of intended testing was not maintained.”
Equally damning in the USADA dossier are suggestions that the UCI turned a blind eye when riders tried to provide evidence of doping activities.
The report highlights efforts by Landis and German rider Jörg Jaksche to reach out to the UCI with allegations against their former teams.
On page 164, as USADA defends its jurisdiction over the Armstrong investigation, the report reads:
UCI has never claimed it discovered any violation based on the Landis email, but instead has always contended the email was not evidence of anything and sued Landis for defamation based on its content. Not surprisingly, then, UCI did not initiate any investigation based on the Landis email. Indeed, UCI has consistently stated (as recently as July 2012) that it is unable to determine whether or not an anti-doping violation has occurred.
Jaksche, a 10-year pro caught up in the Operación Puerto investigation in 2006, also tried to reach out to the UCI in vain. On page 166, the report says:
As set forth in the affidavit of former professional cyclist Jörg Jaksche, the UCI has responded with similar disdain and disinterest towards other cyclists that have tried to bring forth evidence of the serious extent of doping within the peloton. After coming forward and admitting doping in 2007, Mr. Jaksche spoke with UCI lawyers and officials, including Mr. McQuaid, seeking to explain the level of doping that had been taking place on Team Telekom, ONCE, CSC and Liberty Seguros, however, according to Mr. Jaksche, “the UCI showed zero interest in hearing the full story about doping on these teams and did not seek to follow up with me.” Rather, Jaksche reports that “’McQuaid told me he would have liked me to have handled things differently from which I can only conclude he wished I had not been as forthcoming regarding the degree of doping that was taking place in the peloton.”
The UCI will certainly take issue with some of these claims. Whether it’s enough to prompt the governing body to challenge USADA’s findings to CAS remains to be seen.
It is clear, however, that USADA’s timing of the release of its “Reasoned Decision” has certainly distracted the media attention away from the five-day Tour of Beijing, the first race owned and operated by the UCI under its Global Cycling Promotion.