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Exclusive interview with UCI president Pat McQuaid, part 1

  • By Neal Rogers
  • Published Feb. 7, 2013
  • Updated Oct. 30, 2014 at 1:35 PM EST
Pat McQuaid says that he has doubts about USADA and wants to work with WADA on Truth and Reconciliation. Photo: Wil Matthews | VeloNews.com


VN: Do you truly believe a Truth and Reconciliation Commission can work? Do you truly believe it can provide the purge and cleanse, and fresh start, pro cycling needs?
PM: In my heart of hearts, I don’t know. I’ll be quite honest with you, I wonder. Truth and Reconciliation, maybe it’s the wrong title, because when you consider Truth and Reconciliation, you think of South Africa, and you think of two societies that created atrocities against each other and so forth. Even in South Africa, if you actually go and study the Truth and Reconciliation, there were very few amnesties, for the number of people that went and looked for them.

So, in terms of going and drawing a line in the sand, it would be good if it did, but at the end of the day, doping is about riders. It’s about cyclists. It’s a cyclist that decides to dope. And when a cyclist decides not to dope, then the doping stops. If the teams and the riders and the entourage around the teams and all that said, “look, this is it…” And I’ve said this at meetings with the 42 teams, the ProTeams and the Pro Continental teams, I’ve had them in front of me, and I said to them, “doping will stop in this sport when all of you walk out the door, and each one of you makes a decision, ‘I will do everything in my team to ensure there is no doping in my team.’ And then you start a process, of doing everything, and installing everything, and making sure your contracts are covered for doping and all that type of thing.” And if every one of them took that decision, doping in cycling is over. And there doesn’t need to be Truth and Reconciliation and all that.

VN: That may be a bit idealistic, though.
PM: That possibly is a bit idealistic, yes.

VN: However, the concept of amnesty may be a bit idealistic, as well. It’s a bit like world peace. Everyone is for world peace, but who makes the first step? Taking it from concept to reality is easier said than done.
PM: Who makes the first step… yes. Amnesty is something we’ll have to work on with WADA, they are the only ones that will allow an amnesty, and we’ll have to see within this process whether it can be done or not. My fear, and I mentioned this at the Management Committee, my fear would be that we would go into a process, which would be quite public, and I have no problem if there are public hearings over a set period of time… the media can be there to hear all the stories… the thinking is that could be difficult for legal reasons, in terms of defamation and all that… all of this comes out at once, it’s dealt with, it’s over and done with, and we move on. I have a problem if the athletes today, who are doing a huge amount in terms of the fight against doping, have to constantly suffer with this past rhetoric coming up. I don’t think they deserve it.

The athletes today, with the whereabouts they have to do, with the no-needle policy, with the biological passport, and being available 24 hours a day, I have to praise our athletes, because, and I’ve done this before… since we introduced the biological passport, four years ago now, and we have 1,100 athletes in our RTP [Registered Testing Pool], they haven’t, either individually or as a body, complained about what they have had to do for the sport. And I think they deserve great credit for that. I don’t want to see them damaged by all of this.

If there’s a process to happen, which can allow Truth and Reconciliation, or even allow current athletes to go along and say, “okay, at a certain period I doped,” because I know that a lot of them, the witnesses even in the Armstrong case, all said that in 2006 they stopped doping. When I became president in 2005, I started on an anti-doping policy — that was one of my two things, anti-doping and globalization. It is noticeable that a lot of them did stop at that time, because they knew, or they saw, that the UCI was taking a stronger anti-doping policy.

And now, with the introduction of the passport, we have the most stringent anti-doping policy in the world. And I think it’s unfair for the athletes that over the past couple of years are part of that anti-doping policy, they are suffering from the past.

The question is, do you do a Truth and Reconciliation and look back into the activities from 1999 onwards, when EPO was rampant? We know EPO was rampant. We know a large majority of the peloton was using EPO. We couldn’t catch them, and I repeat, and I don’t want to blame other people, but none of the other agencies could catch them, either.

There’s talk in the USADA report about riders being informed in advance of tests and all that. Well, I mean, if UCI were informing riders in advance of tests, were USADA doing it? Were WADA doing it? Were AFLD [French Anti-Doping Agency] doing it? Were CONI [Italian National Olympic Committee] doing it? It doesn’t tally. It doesn’t make sense that UCI would tell people in advance that testers were coming. They may have had systems in place… I think Hamilton said in his book there was a system in place, where, on occasion, if someone looked out and saw a UCI car pulling into the car park, that may have given them 10 minutes to do something, or whatever, but that’s human nature. Nobody could do anything about that. But there was no collusion. And I think even the remarks of Lance Armstrong himself said that there was no collusion with the UCI and anti-doping.

VN: Let’s talk about Armstrong. After his interview with Oprah Winfrey, the UCI issued a statement that it was happy that he had substantiated the UCI’s version of what happened, or didn’t happen, with the 2001 Tour of Switzerland test. Essentially, the UCI pointed to a man who had lied for 15 years and then came clean, to verify its side of the story. And just last week, Armstrong said that you are in “CYA [cover your ass] mode,” and called you “pathetic.” Why would he say that?
PM: I’m sure these are very emotional times for Lance Armstrong. You’ve got to understand where he is, what place he’s in… he’s in a difficult place. The fact that he might be inconsistent in what he says, from one day to the next, I don’t think it surprises anybody. It’s not a question if the UCI is in a position to cover its ass — we have no “ass” to cover — we have nothing to cover.

Again, the Swiss test… Francesca [Rossi] gave a presentation [to the Management Committee] on the biological passport, and how it works, and the controls that are on it, and have always been on it. People seem to forget that, since WADA was formed, and I think it was maybe two to three years after WADA was formed, all results from anti-doping tests — positives, AAFs [adverse analytical findings] — go to the international federations and to WADA. So WADA always knows when there is a positive. If the IF [international federation] does nothing about it, then WADA sees it straight away, and WADA either reads it and says, “what are you doing here?” or WADA can go and take the case itself.

Prior to that, results went to the national Olympic committee, prior to 2002 or 2003, and the International Olympic Committee. So if there was a positive for Armstrong at the Tour de Suisse in whatever year it was, the national Olympic committee [USOC] was aware of it, and the International Olympic Committee was aware of it. So the UCI couldn’t hide it.

That’s a story that, I’m sure — or at least it’s quite possible — that out on a bike ride, Armstrong said that to Landis, or someone like that. You have to ask yourself why. It’s not actually because it happened, but it may have been part of his psyche to say things like this, but the facts don’t back that up. Even WADA, the laboratories, are still there, and there is no positive test.

As part of this process for the Independent Commission, we contacted every laboratory in Europe, or in the world, that was, and still is, doing EPO testing. And we asked them for the numbers — because they only operate in anonymous numbers — of all cyclists that tested positive in their laboratory for EPO over the years. We have that information, which was ready to go to the Independent Commission. And Armstrong’s name doesn’t appear in any of it.

Editor’s note: This interview will continue in part 2 on Friday.

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Neal Rogers

Neal Rogers

Neal Rogers is editor in chief of Velo magazine and VeloNews.com. An interest in all things rock 'n' roll led him into music journalism while attending UC Santa Cruz, on the central coast of California. After several post-grad years spent waiting tables, surfing, and mountain biking, he moved to San Francisco, working as a bike messenger, and at a software startup. He moved to Boulder, Colorado, in 2001, taking an editorial internship at VeloNews. He never left. When not traveling the world covering races, he can be found riding his bike, skiing, or attending a concert.

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