Cycling: British cyclist David Millar calls on UCI honorary president Hein Verbruggen to resign

 

British cyclist David Millar has called for the International Cycling Union's (UCI) honorary president Hein Verbruggen to resign in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping revelations.

A report by the US anti-doping agency (USADA) has stated Armstrong was a serial drug-taker at the centre of a systematic and widespread programme of doping by members of his team US Postal during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Verbruggen was president of the UCI during that time and as recently as last year insisted seven-times Tour de France winner Armstrong had "never, never, never" used doping. The 71-year-old Dutchman is still honorary president and a member of the UCI's management committee.

Millar, who served a two-year ban after admitting to doping in 2004, is now a member of the athletes committee of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

He said it was obvious to everyone in the sport at the time of Armstrong's domination that drug-taking was rife among almost all of the top cyclists.

Millar told the Press Association: "The UCI have to accept they have to carry some responsibility for this because it was obvious what was going on.

"The UCI had all the blood data, the medical reports, it was part of the culture of the sport and in the big races the majority of riders were doing it on drugs.

"There was only a tiny minority getting good results without drugs and they really were the outsiders.

"The first step for the UCI is that Verbruggen has to be removed.

"There is no doubt about that - [current president] Pat McQuaid has to distance himself because it was under Verbruggen's presidency that it was at its worst and yet there were all these denials coming from the UCI.

"He was at the head of organisation with the biggest doping problem in history of sport.

"He's still there. He doesn't have to commit hari kari, he should just admit that mistakes were made and we have all made mistakes.

"But the UCI is not a commercial company so there is no one to answer to."

According to the USADA report, in May last year, responding to a claim by Armstrong's former team-mate Tyler Hamilton on US television show 60 Minutes that the UCI did not take action on a positive Armstrong test, Verbruggen reacted angrily saying: "That's impossible, because there is nothing. I repeat again: Lance Armstrong has never used doping. Never, never, never. And I say this not because I am a friend of his, because that is not true. I say it because I'm sure."

The UCI have said they will examine the USADA report and evidence within the next three weeks but will not delay a response "any longer than necessary".

Millar said the strength and depth of the USADA report - no fewer than 11 riders gave evidence against Armstrong - had been necessary to ensure there were no lingering doubts.

"That has always been the thing with Lance - you couldn't do it unless there was this level of depth and detail," he added. "There's no way there could be any doubts or holes left open.

"I am quite impressed this has actually happened. A lot of people thought he was going to get away with it but now we are dealing with it.

"We don't have a relationship any more - I just thought nothing would ever happen about it."

Millar said that cycling had "climbed out of the abyss" but he feared a whole new generation of riders would be tarnished by the past.

He said: "That's what so sad. A whole generation are now going to have clean careers and results that should never be doubted.

"Cycling went into an abyss but we have climbed out and changed the sport, yet there is still all this baggage we are carrying around.

"Hopefully this will remove that baggage and the sport can confront and be honest about the past and not deny it, and not have the confusion so that no one knew what to believe."

PA

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