Friday, 10 August 2012

The double standards of the UCI

It's curious this week to see the UCI make an inexplicable objection to the USADA investigation of Lance Armstrong. Inexplicable that is, until we remember that some of the allegations contained in the evidence that has been reported widely around the web were statements from former teammates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton who both testified that the UCI helped cover up a positive test for EPO Armstrong submitted at the 2001 Tour du Suisse.

This obvious conflict of interest was not mentioned in Pat McQuaid's bizarre statements to the Cycling Press, nor it seems in the legal claims made by the UCI. The alleged dope test in question, was conducted during the tenure of McQuaid's predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, but it's no secret that the two remain good friends, nor that the latter had a close relationship with Armstrong. The USADA replied with this and a few other conflicts of interest in the matter. Travis Tygart shows no intention of being dissuaded from doing his job, but it's interesting to note how Armstrong's influence, direct or tacit, is already putting pressure on the agency to cease and desist.

2012 Tour de France stage winner David Millar, himself a confessed former doper and now a member of WADA's athlete's committee tweeted his displeasure at the UCI's ambivalence on this matter, which must have reminded him of the Federation's duplicity in the environment he competed in during his pre-ban career. In an interview after his ban, Millar once explained how Verbruggen had smiled and shook his hand at cycling events, despite being fully aware that Millar's blood values were heading unnaturally toward's the UCI's own 50% limit.

Even to the casual observer, it is obvious that McQuaid is making a fool of himself, not to mention making the suspicion that the UCI have got something to hide rather difficult to deny, but then McQuaid's stance on the subject of doping has not been entirely consistent during his career, as former pro and journalist Paul Kimmage has pointed out more than once.

Fortunately, it would appear that WADA are backing the USADA in this instance, but it is a constant reminder of how money and politics sometimes make a mockery of fairness and rules in the sport. We only have to think back to the intervention in the Contador case by the President of Spain, or the acceptance of a backdated certificate for saddle sore cream presented by Armstrong's team for explanation of his positive test for a steroid at the 1999 Tour de France.

So just when we thought the UCI had got to the stage where it would leave no stone unturned and consider nothing and nobody sacred and untouchable in the fight to change the sport, it would seem that the sports governing body is trying to conceal the skeletons it has in its own closet. Watch this space.

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