Round-table: The UCI throws Lance Armstrong to the wolves

Image courtesy of RadioShack

At lunchtime today Pat McQuaid, the president of the UCI, addressed the world’s media and announced that his organisation accepted the findings of the US Anti-Doping Association’s (USADA) ‘reasoned decision’ summarising its thorough investigation into doping practices within the former US Postal team, which enabled Lance Armstrong to win seven consecutive Tours de France between 1999 and 2005. Couched in the strongest possible terms – “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. Lance Armstrong deserves to be forgotten in cycling” – McQuaid confirmed that the retired Armstrong would be stripped of his seven Tour titles and banned for life.

Those are the headlines which instantly winged their way around the world with electronic haste. What was more revealing was what McQuaid said in the Q&A session following his statement where, in noticeably self-congratulatory tones, he vigorously defended the policies and actions of the UCI under his watch (he became president in 2005) and claimed that cycling had come a long way in those years. He also added that he saw little need to introduce major changes such as the separation of responsibility for governing and promoting the sport. And he most certainly had no intention of resigning in the wake of a scandal in which the finger of complicity has been pointed firmly at the organisation of which he is the titular head.

The UCI has published its response to the USADA decision on its website here and here.

With Panache and Jack unavailable for comment today, here’s how the other VeloVoices reacted to the news.

Tim

Like any flim-flam man worth his salt, Pat McQuaid gave the world’s media what they wanted to hear and fed them the soundbites that will dominate headlines for the next 24 hours: ‘Lance Armstrong stripped of Tour titles’, ‘Banned for life’ and ‘Armstrong deserves to be forgotten’.

But it was his performance in the subsequent Q&A which will have left those with a greater knowledge of cycling’s recent history scratching their heads in disbelief. He gave no assurance of a brave new world, only brave new words. Except not particularly new. Nor particularly brave. Just words, in fact.

From Armstrong’s perspective, the doomsday scenario which he has been trying so hard to spin his way out of for the past two weeks is fast becoming reality. Thrown under the bus by sponsors – Oakley, his last major backer, finally cut ties today – and now the UCI, the mass of civil litigation now coming his way could cost him tens of millions of dollars and leave him in financial ruin.

The UCI president tried to divert all the focus on to the Big Bad Wolf, dodging wider issues and mounting a stout defence of the UCI’s (in)actions. He fooled nobody, at times stretching the facts to a point which fell way outside even the most generous definition of ‘truth’. He obfuscated. He shilly-shallied. He lied.

In the world according to McQuaid, the UCI has behaved impeccably and cycling – by which he meant himself – has been winning the war against doping since he assumed the presidency in 2005. This, let’s remember, is the same man who has taken out libel suits against Floyd Landis and Paul Kimmage, and challenged USADA’s jurisdiction in its investigation of Armstrong. The disparity between McQuaid’s revisionist view of history and the actual facts makes the Grand Canyon look like a small ditch.

Talk is cheap, actions speak louder. What is the UCI actually going to do to improve things moving forward? The simple answer appears to be: nothing. That is the most worrying thing of all. At a time when the UCI needs to present a credible road-map for change, its president instead chose to serve up a diet of self-serving, self-congratulatory, protectionist twaddle. Yes, Lance Armstrong is gone from the record books – no thanks to the UCI – but who is going to ensure an Armstrong Mark II never emerges? Not the UCI under its current stewardship, it seems.

You can’t fool all of the people all of the time, Pat. Was this a “landmark day for cycling” as he claimed? Anything but.

I’m not angry today. I’m sad, so very, very sad. Today was a huge opportunity to write a new chapter for a bright future. Instead McQuaid elected to rewrite the past.

Sheree

The press conference started with a nervous laugh from Pat McQuaid and a lot of hand-wringing from his PR honcho, Enrico Carpani. That pretty much set the tone for the entire conference with Pat distancing himself as much as possible from any events prior to his election in Madrid in late 2005. A number of tricky questions were allegedly answered in the press pack handed out at the meeting, while pretty much everything else was to be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the UCI’s management committee or was deflected to one of the other three members of the panel.

Pat claimed it was a “landmark day”. How so? Surely the release of information by USADA into the public domain was landmark, not the UCI’s affirmation of its decision. If I was cynical I would say that this was an arse-covering exercise with Pat being (in)famously non-committal, admitting that without lots more cash, time, police powers and corroborating evidence what’s a poor Irish lad – who after seven years in Aigle still can’t speak French – to do?

And, no, he’s not stepping down nor is he advocating better segregation of the UCI’s duties. In fact, despite asserting that this “must never happen again”, Pat’s not proposing any changes other than to the winners of the Tour de Farce from 1999-2005.

Oh, and by the way, Pat, I wasn’t overly impressed with you quoting J F Kennedy, a man who famously called himself a doughnut: “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Round, doughy and without a middle …

Kitty

Since I became a cycling fan, I have heard a lot of astonishing things spouted by riders, commentators, sponsors and the UCI. Just in the last week we’ve had Sean Yates’ “I just drove the car” to Tom Boonen’s “we’re all clean now, we have nothing to worry about”. It has been a festival of bullshit.

But nothing comes close to the absolutely gobsmacking revisionist bollocks that came out of Pat McQuaid’s mouth today. He held himself up as a true anti-doping crusader yet refused to accept the USADA’s findings on Armstrong’s biological passport shenanigans in 2009-10, trying to sweep that under the carpet, along with donations, testing cover-ups et cetera.

But this is not what concerns me most about what was said in this press conference. It is this: “Lance Armstrong deserves to be forgotten in cycling.” No. No, no, no, no, no. If we forget about Lance Armstrong, we will be having this conversation again in five years’ time. We will continue to see widespread doping in the peloton. Cycling would be able to keep the omerta culture alive and well, forcing some riders to make that horrible choice of betraying their sport in order to stay in the sport that they love.

Lance Armstrong deserves everything coming to him, no doubt about that, but he cannot be forgotten. His legacy must never be forgotten in cycling. His legacy must be one that means riders, teams, sponsors and governing bodies are all held accountable and forced – by the fans, by journalists, by each other – to be transparent, really transparent, not the half-hearted bollocks that is namechecked as transparency these days. It must mean that questions are asked – and answered – around awkward subjects, that journalists do their f***ing job and not just go along for the ride, that bullying and intimidation are brought out into the open immediately so the bully has no power. That should be the legacy of Lance Armstrong, not being forgotten. Because if he’s forgotten, the sport that we love so passionately will make fools of us all.

How do you feel? Let us know in the comments below.

8 thoughts on “Round-table: The UCI throws Lance Armstrong to the wolves

  1. Maff says:

    If you are a President of an organisation or a country etc then you accept full responsibility for what is right or wrong within that body. The UCI, for a very long time now, have been more than happy to bury their head in the sand and avoid the whole situation of doping, Lance etc.

    If you aren’t part of the solution then you are part of the problem and McQuaid not putting any new measures in place shows a level of naivety, stupidity and ignorance that proves he either isn’t up to the task of being President or complicit in the current situation.

    I believe that McQuaid held off on the Lance decision because he knew in advance what Lance was up to and also because of the donation Lance made (a situation no governing body should ever have gotten in to) and he was waiting to see if there was away they could squeeze themselves and possibly Lance out of the situation.

    Having realised on seeing the report that USADA had covered every inch of the affair they knew they couldn’t.

    What he should be doing is standing up to be counted, addressing the faults of the UCI past and present (a hematocrit holiday? really?) learning a harsh lesson from this whole affair and ensuring that nothing like this can EVER happen again.

    Unfortunately he is no better than some of the people he represents. He is more concerned about himself, his reputation and what he stands to lose and gain rather than making sure that cyclings reputation and future are clean.

    P.S. This is in no way a defence or a concern for Lance but are we also to expect the UCI to claim refunds from Ullrich, Riis, Contador, Fignon, Pantani, Mercx, Anquetil etc etc?

    • Like Sheree says, yesterday really felt like an arse-covering exercise by McQuaid, albeit one which lacked any real credibility. His mantra seemed very much to be “I’m OK, Lance is not OK”. Although I think most people would agree that Armstrong deserves all the bad karma currently heading his way, I was extremely disappointed (but not surprised) that Pat chose to make him the scapegoat for all cycling’s ills while at the same time bigging up his own contribution to improving thing and saying that nothing needs to change (other than him being given more power). Really, Pat? Really?!?

  2. Bev says:

    In my books Lance Armstrong won 7 TdF; USADA found Barry Bonds guilty of illegal drug use and didn’t strip him of his “home run” record.I have stripped USASDA of all authority in my world other than a record of vendatta and idiocracy.

    • Even as a SF Giants fan, personally I think Bonds should have been stripped of his HR record too, but there is a big difference to my eye between a personal record and a title/championship – and, to a degree, between performances in individual and team sports. Even Lance himself has now stopped claiming that he won seven TdFs (at least on Twitter), having amended his own profile bio.

  3. Surely Pat has to go first, otherwise based on what he said yesterday we’ll never get anything changed in order to stop this happening again. But who’s got the power to kick him out? The UCI management committee are probably up to their necks as deep as McQuaid (well perhaps not, but they surely all know what’s going on / what has gone on). So do we have to hope that the IOC (not sure I trust them any more) jump in and threaten to remove cycling from the Olympics? Or WADA have some trick up their sleeve?

    • Sheree says:

      It’s gonna take something mammoth to shake Pat free from his sinecure. I’m thinking nothing less than a full confession from Lance detailing the “assistance” he received from UCI…………………………..

    • I think it’s up to either Pat to resign or for the 42-member UCI Congress to depose him. Sadly, the likelihood of either happening just now is only marginally more than (to paraphrase an old saying) seeing airborne bacon any time soon. As Sheree says, it will take something cataclysmic to force someone’s hand. The only revelation I can think of which would be seismic enough would be Lance himself detailing the extent of the ‘cooperation’ he has had from the UCI – and even then it would have to be post-2005 to show that it happened on McQuaid’s watch.

      Despite Pat’s headline-grabbing damnation of Armstrong yesterday, the conspiracy theorist in me does wonder if he is still keeping Lance close to ensure that neither is tempted to provide any new, even more damaging revelations about the other. It’s just a thought …

  4. Let’s not be lulled into thinking that the biggest pile of dung has already hit the fan….there’s WAY more to come! Lance wisely chose to not challenge the USADA because if this thing went to the arbitration panel things would look far WORSE! (I’m assuming here that USADA and the defendent would have powers of subpeona before the CAS, so forgive me if I’m wrong.)

    The problem here is that there are still two opprotunities for LOTS of info to be brought to light. First of all Bruyneel (sp?) is not playing ball and is not accepting the lifetime ban imposed by USADA. That means the case goes before the CAS and USADA gets to call all the witnesses and subpeaona testing information from the UCI. Can you imagine Lance, or even Kristin? being compelled to testify before the CAS? With the mountains of evidence compiled against him do you really think he’s going to perjure himself and claim he never doped? If he has to confess to doping I think he may just decide to tell the truth….the WHOLE truth.

    And what about Kristin? “Kristin…did you ever witness any evidence that your ex-husband, Lance Armstrong, participated in illegal doping?”….”Ummm…well, I’m not sure…did he…umm…what was the question again?”

    Finally, I wouldn’t be too surprised to hear that the UCI is dropping it’s defamation case against Klummage. I’m quite sure he has power of subpeona for that case and the only way to prove you are not guilty in defaming the UCI is to prove that there is indeed evidence that the UCI is corrupt. Again, with the mountains of evidence the USADA is sitting on, that could be a VERY interesting court case indeed. “Mr. Armstrong, can you tell us about the meeting you had with UCI officials back in 2001?”

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