Pat McQuaid, the president of world cycling’s governing body the UCI, has hit back at claims by disgraced rider Lance Armstrong that the sport cannot change its doping image while the Irishman remains in charge.
Armstrong claimed McQuaid – currently facing a re-election challenge from British Cycling’s Brian Cookson – must go if the sport is to clean up.
“Things just cannot change as long as McQuaid stays in power,” Armstrong said. “The UCI refuses to establish a truth and reconciliation commission because the testimony that everyone would want to hear would bring McQuaid, [his predecessor] Hein Verbruggen and the whole institution down.”
McQuaid yesterday released a statement of his own, which read: “It is very sad that Lance Armstrong has decided to make this statement on the eve of the Tour de France. However, I can tell him categorically that he is wrong. His comments do absolutely nothing to help cycling. Armstrong’s views and opinions are shaped by his own behaviour and time in the peloton. Cycling has now moved on.”
Armstrong made his comments in an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde and also claimed it was impossible to win the Tour de France without using drugs. The American implied all recent winners of the race – including Sir Bradley Wiggins last year – must have taken some form of illegal substance.
“I didn’t invent doping. It didn’t stop with me, either,” Armstrong said. In reply to the question whether it was possible to win cycle races without drugs while he was a professional rider, Armstrong said: “It depends which races you want to win. The Tour de France? Impossible without dope. The Tour is a test of endurance, where oxygen is the decisive factor. EPO, for example, is not going to help a sprinter over 100 metres but it will make all the difference to a 10,000-metre runner. That’s obvious.”
Although Armstrong was replying to questions about the period 1995-2005, his answers strongly implied that nothing had changed. That will enrage top riders who have succeeded him, such as Wiggins and this year’s Tour favourite Chris Froome, who insist they and the sport are clean.
Asked how the doping habit in cycling could be broken, Armstrong said: “For many reasons, it will never finish. Doping has existed since antiquity and will always exist. I know that’s not a popular thing to say but it is unfortunately the reality.”