British Cycling President Brian Cookson today demanded to know whether the International Cycling Union (UCI) was involved in the widespread doping uncovered by a French Senate inquiry, who has called for a “truth and reconciliation” commission to be set-up to help find out the extent of the problem.
The 918-page report published today confirmed that Italy’s Marco Pantani and Germany’s Jan Ullrich, first and second in the 1998 Tour de France, were both taking the banned blood booster Erythropoietin (EPO).
It also again confirmed the widely-known fact that Lance Armstrong also tested positive for EPO in 1999, the first of the American’s seven consecutive Tour de France victories.
The Senate group recommended that the French Government finance studies about the extent of doping, its risks and the range of drugs used.
“We cannot properly fight something that we don’t understand,” Senator Jean-Jacques Lozach, the group’s spokesman, said. “Speaking of doping doesn’t harm sport but instead contributes in the medium and long term to restore its greatness. Not speaking about it often means not doing anything.”
Pantini died in 2004 while Ullrich last month confessed to blood doping during his career but has so far not publicly admitted using EPO.
The publication of the report will put further pressure on Pat McQuaid, President of the UCI, who is facing opposition for a third term from Cookson.
Although he did not become head of cycling’s world governing body until 2005 he is closely linked to Hein Verbruggen, the Dutchman who led the organisation from 1991 until he stood aside to let Irishman McQuaid take over.
“Today’s news shows just how out of control professional road cycling was allowed to get in the late 1990s,” said Cookson.
“The fact that it appears so many riders tested positive in the 1998 and 1999 Tour de France for EPO is a terrible indictment of the people responsible, and those with the most responsibility for the culture within the sport are the UCI.
“What I believe is absolutely essential on our road back to credibility is that we get to the bottom of how this happened.
“Most importantly we need to know whether the UCI was complicit, colluded with riders or was itself corrupt.
“That is why I will implement a fully independent investigation into doping in cycling so we can deal once and for all with the past, with amnesties or reductions in sanctions to encourage all those involved to come forward.
“The brief of the investigation will center on the uncovering of any UCI corruption and collusion, and understanding what factors led to the culture of doping.
“Earlier this week I outlined seven anti doping measures that I would introduce if elected President of the UCI to recharge the fight against doping.
“These come in addition to my pledge to establish a completely Independent Anti-Doping Unit that would be physically and politically separate from the UCI.
“We have much better tools than we did in the 1990s and progress has been made, but an essential aspect of the future is making anti-doping completely independent from the UCI.
“We have to face the fact that the UCI isn’t trusted, and to restore the credibility of the sport, anti-doping has to be separated fully from the promotion and governance of the sport.
“While today might be difficult for the individuals involved and for their friends and families, anything which shines a light on the dopers and those who enabled widespread doping is to be welcomed.
“And we owe it to those who chose to ride dope-free and to the fans to understand the mistakes of the past and make sure they are not repeated.”
Another bonus for Cookson’s election campaign is that the inquiry believes Chris Froome, who last Sunday (July 21) became the first second consecutive Briton to win the Tour de France, is clean.
Cookson, head of British Cycling since 1997 during which he has overseen an unprecedented period of success, has always insisted that Team GB riders should be free of suspicion.
“I trust the generation of the current riders, notably the French,” said Lozach. “We also know that suspicions over Chris Froome’s performances in the recent Tour de France are unfounded, not legitimate and not scientifically justified at the moment. But we believe it’s wholesome to preserve the process of retrospective controls.”
A total of 83 people were interviewed for the report, including McQuad and Travis Tygart, chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), who last year banned Armstrong for life after finding him guilty of systematic doping throughout his career and stripping him of his seven Tour de France titles.
Other cyclists named in the report as having used banned drugs during their career are Frenchman Laurent Jalabert, a former winner of sprinter’s and climber’s jersey in the Tour de France, and Jacky Durand, winner of three stages of the Tour de France during his career.
Jalabert has denied that he used drugs but Durand has acknowledged that he did.
“I admit my actions”, Durand said. “The next generation must not pay for our crap from the past. Our sport is much cleaner now.”
Inside the Games is an online blog of the London Organizing Committee that staged the 2012 London Games. The blog continues to cover issues that are important to the Olympic Movement. This article is reprinted here with permission of the blog editors.