Paris - An independent commission on Monday accused top leaders of cycling's
world body of protecting Lance Armstrong despite mounting signs that the
now-disgraced Tour de France winner was a doping cheat.
The commission also slammed money and benefits used during elections for
the presidency of the International Cycling Union (UCI) and called for
major changes in the way it is run.
The Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC), led by Dick Marty, a
Swiss politician and former state prosecutor, was set up following
allegations that Armstrong made cash donations to the UCI in a bid to
cover up doping failures.
Armstrong, who defeated cancer to go on and win seven straight Tour de
France races from 1999 to 2005, was stripped of his titles in 2012 and
banned from the sport for life. The fallen US cycling hero, 43, now
admits taking banned substances.
The commission said it found no links between donations amounting to
$125 000 he made to the UCI and a cover up of his drug failures. The
CIRC gave a damning assessment however of efforts by the UCI under past
presidents Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid to shield Armstrong from
"Numerous examples have been identified showing that UCI leadership
'defended' or 'protected' Lance Armstrong and took decisions because
they were favourable to him. This was in circumstances where there was
strong reason to suspect him of doping," said the commission report.
The UCI "purposely limited the scope" of one 2005 independent investigation into Armstrong.
"UCI exempted Lance Armstrong from rules, failed to target test him
despite the suspicions, and publicly supported him against allegations
of doping, even as late as 2012."
The commission said "requesting and accepting donations from Lance Armstrong, given the suspicions, left UCI open to criticism."
In 1999, Armstrong was allowed to provide a backdated doctor's
prescription "to avoid sanction" during the 1999 Tour de France when
four out of 15 tests taken showed banned corticosteroids.
When Armstrong made a comeback in 2009, the UCI allowed him to compete
in the Tour Down Under in Australia even though he had not been
available for testing for the previous six months, as required.
The commission said it had information that McQuaid "made a sudden
u-turn" to let Armstrong return 13 days early, against the advice of UCI
It added that there was "a temporal link between this decision" and
Armstrong's move announced later the same day "to participate in the
Tour of Ireland." McQuaid's brother was an organiser of the race.
The commission said Armstrong was seen as the "perfect choice to lead
the sport's renaissance" after the Festina drug scandal on the Tour de
France in 1998.
"The fact that he was American opened up a new continent for the sport,
he had beaten cancer and the media quickly made him a global star."
The commission highlighted lapses in cycling's general anti-drug regime
including drug testers sometimes leaking information about who would be
the target of tests.
It said there were "serious allegations" that riders from one unnamed
country paid what was called an "anti-doping tax" to avoid tests. The
commission said the the accusations were received late in its mandate so
had been passed to the UCI for further investigation.
"The significant risk for cycling is that the number of doping scandals
and damage to the sport’s reputation will cause both existing sponsors
to leave the sport and deter new sponsors," said the report,
highlighting the exit of Rabobank, a Dutch bank, in 2012.
Neither Verbruggen nor McQuaid made an immediate comment.
The report also highlighted how before the Irishman succeeded the
veteran Dutch sports baron in 2005, Verbruggen offered McQuaid "paid
work" at the UCI for six months before the election.
McQuaid was also a paid consultant to the 2004 Road World Championships
in Verona, Italy when he was president of the UCI road racing