Brands Hatch, England - World cycling's governing body is considering an amnesty for riders and officials to confess to doping offences, and says there would have to be serious flaws in the case to challenge the decision to strip Lance Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, UCI President Pat McQuaid said he will this month propose an amnesty to help clean up cycling after an era tarnished by doping.
"There's room for it and the UCI could do well to (introduce it)," McQuaid said. "It's a subject I will bring up myself at the management committee of the UCI and it's something which we would look into possibly doing."
The meeting on September 19 and 20 will consider whether offenders would respond to any amnesty.
"It would need to be examined as to how it could be introduced, what would be the parameters of it, what would be the framework in which it's worked, what would be the results afterwards," McQuaid said. "We have to work in the world anti-doping rules and sanctions."
The UCI is still waiting to receive the evidence that resulted in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency stripping Armstrong of his Tour titles, a move the American is not challenging.
In a related matter, a senior IOC member told the AP that Armstrong could keep his bronze medal from the 2000 Sydney Games even if he is stripped of his Tour victories. Denis Oswald said the matter could turn on different interpretations of the eight-year statute of limitations stipulated in the World Anti-Doping Code.
Also Friday, the Lance Armstrong Foundation announced that Armstrong will not be allowed to run in next month's Chicago Marathon. Marathon organizers have little choice, given that the race is sanctioned by USA Track and Field and Armstrong's ban prevents him from entering any events organised, authorized or sanctioned by federations that follow WADA rules.
Ironman France barred Armstrong for similar reasons after USADA filed doping charges against him in June.
McQuaid said USADA's decision to impose a life ban will be challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport only if there is "serious reason" to do so, adding that the seven stripped Tour titles might never be reassigned.
The question now is whether the UCI will endorse the lifetime ban imposed on Armstrong by American authorities last month. The cycling body had hoped to discuss the case at its management meeting this month, but it is still waiting for USADA's dossier.
"It does seem slightly unusual (the file hasn't arrived)," McQuaid said. "Our only thoughts on it would be that maybe they didn't have a full file or they don't have a full file... we are assuming they do have a full file because they have already announced a life ban on Lance Armstrong."
But McQuaid does feel there has been "impropriety" in the case, claiming aspects of World Anti-Doping Agency code have not been followed by the American body.
"Anyone with any knowledge of justice would know that if you want to give a person a ban for life, the least you can do is show him the evidence you have got against him and this hasn't happened in this case," McQuaid said.
USADA believes Armstrong used banned substances as far back as 1996, including the blood booster EPO, steroids and blood transfusions.
Armstrong has long denied doping but two weeks ago chose not to fight drug charges by USADA, which erased 14 years of his competitive results.
But Armstrong's Tour titles from 1999 to 2005 might not be inherited by another rider, given that nearly all of his second-place finishers have been implicated in doping or cheating.
"The podium of those tours, second and third, by and large a lot of them either have been convicted of doping some way or another, or would be suspected in terms of doping," McQuaid said. "If it comes to it that we would take the titles away, whether they would be handed down to second and third, I don't know ... if it's a question that we would declare that era as a black era, then I'm not afraid to do so."
Cycling's governing body has no qualms about endorsing the USADA ban. But it could challenge the fact that the charges against Armstrong arise from evidence first sent to USA Cycling, which is sanctioned by the Europe-based UCI, and includes drug tests collected by the UCI.
"We don't want to go to CAS necessarily on the merits of the case, but if we have to on jurisdiction we will do so," McQuaid said.
Armstrong, who walked away from the sport in 2011, has always denied doping and notes that he has passed hundreds of tests. McQuaid said 215 tests throughout Armstrong's career were overseen by the UCI, and insisted there was no cover-up of a failed test by the Texan in 2001 as has been alleged.
McQuaid said his "conscience is 100 percent clear."
"There are people who are saying the UCI helped Armstrong or was complicit with Armstrong in relation to those tests," he said. "That's absolutely untrue ... there's a lot of people very quick to make statements to the media which have no backup evidence."
McQuaid is particularly critical of Tyler Hamilton, the USADA witness whose book published this week discusses Armstrong. The UCI chief contends Hamilton's evidence is tainted and questions whether he can be trusted.
Hamilton rode with Armstrong on the US Postal Service team from 1998 to 2001. He details the years he spent lying about using performance-enhancing drugs and his relationship with Armstrong in the book after having provided evidence to a U.S grand jury that was used in the USADA case.
"There is absolutely no remorse in the whole book about what he did and what's done for the sport in all of that time," McQuaid said of Hamilton after having read extracts of the book. "That doesn't impress me.
"And then I wonder, what's the objective of him coming clean? He says it's a weight off his shoulders ... but by the same token he has to accept and recognize the damage he did to the sport and the damage he continues to do to the sport."
Asked if Hamilton's evidence is tainted, McQuaid replied: "When people time the arrival of books to meet certain situations I question what their real motivations are. Is it to make money?"