August 12/12 7:23 am - UCI President Embattled Over USADA Probe - Background & Update
Posted by Editoress on 08/12/12
Pat McQuaid, President of the UCI, is used to facing the press over doping scandals, and has always pointed to the biological passport program as an example of the efforts cycling is making to clean up the sport. However, he is currently under the most intense pressure of his career in the ongoing battle with the U.S. anti-doping agency USADA.
There have long been allegations and accusations that seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong doped during his career. Armstrong has pointed to his spotless record in anti-doping tests, and aggressively pursued through the courts anyone who attempted to state that he had doped.
The scrutiny of Armstrong became even more intense when disgraced Tour winner Floyd Landis claimed that Armstrong doped while he [Landis] rode for Armstrong's US Postal squad, and that there was a systematic program in place run by Armstrong and team director Johan Bruyneel.
U.S. authorities launched a federal investigation into the matter, approaching it from the angle that since the U.S. Postal service is a federal agency, a number of criminal laws were broken. The federal investigators reportedly subpoenaed and spoke with a number of ex-team mates of Armstrong. However, that Grand Jury investigation was abruptly shuttered after two years, and it appeared that Armstrong was, once again, in the clear.
However, the USADA subsequently announced that they were investigating the situation, and had interviewed numerous former employees and team mates of Armstrong. Armstrong was subsequently banned from competing in sanctioned triathlons during the investigation, and former U.S. Postal doctor Luis Garcia del Moral, Armstrong’s personal trainer and team consultant Michele Ferrari, plus coach “Pepe” Marti were banned for life for participating in a systematic doping program at U.S. Postal during the 1999 to 2005 period.
Here is where it gets interesting and complicated:
1. Armstrong has gone to court in the U.S. fighting various aspects of the investigation - this is ongoing.
2. The UCI demanded that USADA turn over all the details of the cases to them, since they are the governing body for the sport. USADA refused, stating that they don't trust the UCI to not cover things up, since they will be implicated in implicitly and explicitly helping Armstrong. Among other things, there are claims that the UCI covered up a positive doping result for Armstrong at the Tour de Suisse, and had accepted money from Armstrong. This latter has been admitted by the UCI, and the money was a donation, reportedly used to purchase equipment for anti-doping.
3. WADA, the international anti-doping agency, has now come out siding with USADA against the UCI, disagreeing with McQuaid that the UCI has jurisdiction, and stating that it should remain with USADA. McQuaid's reasoning, stated in a press conference here at the Games, was that:
"When this started, unfortunately, USADA released the charge letters to the public immediately. This affair is a trial in the court of public opinion, and that's not just for anybody. I'm in no way trying to save Lance Armstrong's skin - not in any way. The question at stake here is, I am concerned that the authority of the UCI as an international federation has been undermined by USADA with the support of WADA."
Basically, the UCI position is that UCI should be involved in the process, since it is their licenced athletes that that are being investigated, and that due process needs to be respected for fairness to the athletes and all parties. The UCI points out that this is the way it worked with CONI, the Italian Olympic Committee, in their investigation and subsequent sanction of the Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde in the Puerto blood doping affair.
USADA has responded that they will not share the file, because they don't want/trust the UCI to potentially intimidate witnesses, which is also the reason they have not publically announced the names.
Ironically, while McQuaid is the one facing all the media and slurs to his reputation, the majority actual events that are alleged to have taken place happen under the purview of his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen.
Where things currently stand:
The USADA, with the support of WADA, continues their investigation, with the potential of finding Armstrong was involved in a doping conspiracy. If this were to happen, the potential impact to both the UCI and the sport of cycling would be devastating, with cycling forever tarred as the doper sport, and the UCI likely to be in tatters and have to rebuild completely. The impact on sponsorship would be equally drastic.
We will all have to wait and see.