Lance Armstrong has been officially stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by the International Cycling Union (UCI) but President of the body Pat McQuaid said he has “no intention” of resigning as a result of the scandal that has rocked the sport to its core.
In a fiery press conference in Geneva, McQuaid revealed that the UCI would not appeal the decision taken by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to ban Armstrong from the sport and strip him of his seven prestigious titles.
It came after USADA compiled a damning 1,000-page dossier earlier this month that accused the 41-year-old Texan of being a serial cheat who led “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen.”
“Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling,” said McQuaid, who took over as UCI President in 2005 following the American’s seventh Tour de France win. “He deserves to be forgotten. Cycling has a future and this is not the first crossroads we have faced. We will find a new path forward. The UCI wishes to begin that journey by not challenging the USADA report.
“The UCI is listening to cycling and on your side,” McQuaid added. “We’ve gone too far in the fight against doping to return to our past. Something like this must never happen again. I’m sorry that we couldn’t catch every damn one of them red-handed and throw them out of the sport at the time.”
McQuaid, who is also an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, then confirmed that he had “no intention” of resigning despite growing pressure that he and his predecessor Hein Verbruggen, the current UCI Honorary President, did little to investigate the Armstrong doping allegations that have been continuously bought up since 1999.
“When I took over [as President] in 2005, I made the fight against doping my priority,” he said. “I acknowledged cycling had a culture of doping. Cycling has come a long way.We can only go on the system that is in place at the time. We always did more testing than any other international federation. It’s easy to look back and say you could have done more but you can only work on the system you have in place.
“The assistance of police and Government authorities is very important,” McQuaid added. “You must remember that very few Governments had laws about doping in sport. We’ve also developed collaborations with other anti-doping agencies.But it would be wonderful if we have police powers, but we don’t.”
McQuaid also says the USDA report on Armstrong shows a very complex doping scheme.
“I was sickened by what I read,” he said. “The story that he told of how he was coerced into doping was mind-boggling. I find it very difficult to understand that that was happening, but it was.”
McQuaid also revealed there would be meeting of the UCI Management Committee on Friday, Oct. 26 to “discuss the ramifications of this decision and what we can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
“I like to look at this crisis as an opportunity for our sport and everyone involved in it to realize it is in danger and to work together to go forward,” he added. “I don’t think in any aspect of society there are no cheats, but I do believe doping can be reduced.”
Despite McQuaid’s defiant stance, he and Verbruggen remain very much under pressure, while Armstrong’s reputation could barely be lower.
The American, who overcame cancer to return to professional cycling, won the Tour de France in seven successive years from 1999 to 2005 and has always denied doping but chose not to fight the charges filed against him.
Armstrong, who retired in 2005 but returned in 2009 before retiring for good two years later, has not commented on the details of USADA’s report but his lawyer Tim Herman has described it as a “one-sided hatchet job.”
In public appearances, Armstrong has only described the situation as “a difficult couple of weeks.”
Sponsors who have already dropped Armstrong include Nike and Anheuser-Busch, while he has stepped down as chairman of the charity he formed, Livestrong, which raised hundreds of millions of dollars for people affected by cancer.
Tour de France general director Christian Prudhomme had said the race would go along with whatever the UCI decided, meaning it could end up with no official winners for the years of Armstrong’s consecutive wins when the issue is discussed by organisers later this month.
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com. Inside the Games is a blog of the London Organizing Committee for the recent London Olympics and Paralympics. This article is reprinted here with permission of the publishers.