The UCI Acts “Decisively” Over Lance Armstrong – Stable Doors Will Be Addressed Next

It is not just the football authorities who seem to drag their feet and shuffle ineffectually over serious issues in sport. The UCI has been struggling to deal with the aftermath of USADA releasing its 1,000-page report into the systematic cheating of Lance Armstrong following his decision no longer to contest doping charges.

Yesterday the UCI issued a press release.

It goes under the heading of “UCI takes decisive action in wake of Lance Armstrong affair”.

That title follows in a long line of such headings, such as “Titanic captain takes decisive action over iceberg” “Farmer takes decisive action over stable door and empty stable” and “Small umbrella takes decisive action over hurricane”.

The UCI has been accused of complicity in Armstrong’s cheating, and in fact until today was continuing to pursue defamation proceedings against Paul Kimmage, pro cyclist turned journalist, over his allegations that the UCI failed to act in connection with massive doping throughout the sport.

The press release is below, and my comments are in bold.

The Management Committee of the International Cycling Union (UCI), meeting in Geneva today, decided a number of critical measures in the wake of the USADA ‘Reasoned Decision’ on Lance Armstrong. The Committee acknowledged that decisive action was needed in response to the report.

“Decisive action” was needed a long time before now. Maybe after the first allegations about Mr Armstrong appeared, or when he won his first, second, third … Tour, or when he retired, or came back, or retired again!

Mind you, better late than never one supposes.

With respect to Lance Armstrong and the implications of the USADA sanctions which it endorsed on Monday 22 October, the Management Committee decided not to award victories to any other rider or upgrade other placings in any of the affected events.

The Committee decided to apply this ruling from now on to any competitive sporting results disqualified due to doping for the period from 1998 to 2005, without prejudice to the statute of limitation. The Committee also called on Armstrong and all other affected riders to return the prize money they had received.

As I wrote before, there would have been a terrible problem for the sport in seeking to re-allocate placings and victories. The various cyclists who would have been promoted were often riders who have themselves been convicted of doping, or have very strong suspicions hanging round them. In some years, the UCI might have had to drop out of the top ten finishers to find the new “clean” “winner”.

That could be seen as making a mockery of the event.

As far as the prize money being returned is concerned, one assumes that, as well as the prizes to Armstrong personally, this also includes the purses won by his team in all of the affected years? Indeed, where any of his team-mates won a stage with his assistance, it could be argued that too is tainted. Mr Armstrong might be in a financial position to repay the prize money he “won”. However there are likely to be a number of affected riders, who might themselves have been totally clean, who would be in no financial position to repay the UCI.

Will it sue the riders in the relevant courts to get the money back? And bankrupt those who cannot pay?

The UCI Management Committee acknowledged that a cloud of suspicion would remain hanging over this dark period – but while this might appear harsh for those who rode clean, they would understand there was little honour to be gained in reallocating places.

The best way of marking the dis-approval of the behaviour of the dopers is to leave the winner’s position blank. If the records were changed, it might not be apparent to future observers how racked with cheating the sport was. Instead, leaving the race “unwon” is equivalent to the campaign to put an asterisk beside Barry Bonds’ Home Run records, for example.

Mind you, if I was someone who, but for Armstrong, would have won a Tour, I might feel rather upset that (a) I had been cheated out of my prize and (b) that I had not received the prize money I was due.

I imagine that the promotion of other riders to replace those disqualified is at the UCI’s discretion. Otherwise the UCI could face additional court actions from disappointed riders.

I wonder f the UCI has taken soundings from riders? After all, whilst in general a rider might not agree with re-allocating places, they might think differently if they were themselves in line to inherit a win!

Looking at the football situation, the UCI’s position seems to be one which, if the SPL Independent Commission finds Rangers guilty, and then removes prizes, would be most appropriate. If Rangers are stripped of titles, then leave the winner’s spot blank.

Second, while the Management Committee expressed confidence that enormous strides had been made in the fight against doping since 2005, in order to ensure that UCI and cycling could move forward with the confidence of all parties, the governing body also decided to establish a fully independent external Commission to look into the various allegations made about UCI relating to the Armstrong affair.

The Committee agreed that part of the independent Commission’s remit would be to find ways to ensure that persons caught for doping were no longer able to take part in the sport, including as part of an entourage.

Fans of Yes, Minister will reveal that appointing a Commission to investigate a matter was often a good way of sending an issue to the “long grass”. And to take the heat off the minister.

In view of the UCI’s alleged involvement, it is quite right however for an independent enquiry to take place.

In the week of 5 November 2012, therefore, the Management Committee will announce which independent sports body will nominate the members of the Commission and, with the UCI Management Committee, agree appropriate terms of reference. Following this, individual members of the independent Commission will be appointed as soon as possible with a view to their report and recommendations being published no later than 1 June 2013.

Want a bet on the Commission report coming in for June 1?

Bearing in mind the 100th Tour de France taking place next year, the UCI must be weighing up the report being ready pre-Tour or afterwards. Each has its own perils.

An exoneration of the UCI might be seen by some as a whitewash, whilst a negative verdict will overshadow one of its most important events for years.

In addition, if the UCI gets a clean bill of health, and in the subsequent Tour riders fail tests, then the credibility of the investigation would be destroyed.

Finally, while continuing strongly to maintain the merits of UCI’s case, the Committee decided to seek to suspend the UCI legal action against journalist Paul Kimmage, pending the findings of the independent Commission. UCI President Pat McQuaid and Honorary President Hein Verbruggen who are individual parties to the case will similarly seek to put their cases on hold.

Even for an organisation as dogmatic as the UCI, it would have been ridiculous to proceed wit the case against Mr Kimmage at this time when the greatest champion in the Tour’s history had just been stripped of his seven wins.

Mr Kimmage, and the court, might not be happy to allow the case to be held pending the Commission. Indeed, whilst the release “justifies” the case continuing after the Commission reports, Mr Kimmage might suggest that the root and branch reforms are an effective admission of the UCI’s guilt!

UCI President Pat McQuaid said: “As I said on Monday, UCI is determined to turn around this painful episode in the history of our sport. We will take whatever actions are deemed necessary by the independent Commission and we will put cycling back on track.

“Today, cycling is a completely different sport from what it was in the period 1998-2005. Riders are now subject to the most innovative and effective anti-doping procedures and regulations in sport. Nevertheless, we have listened to the world’s reaction to the Lance Armstrong affair and have taken these additional decisive steps in response to the grave concerns raised.”

It seems that every sport which has doping issues announces that it has learned lessons and has the most robust and foolproof anti-doping regime. And yet people keep failing tests.

I know it is trite to say so, but many of the world’s most notorious sporting dopers never failed a test. And the old saying about the Tour is not that it is a surprise any riders dope, but that it is a shock anyone completes the race without artificial assistance.

The comment by the UCI that they will take whatever action is recommended by the Independent Commission seems a hostage to fortune. If Mr McQuaid and his colleagues stick to it, then all credit to them, but it is rare for a body to surrender control over its own affairs.

How likely is it that (a) the Commission misses the June target for the report and (b) once prepared the UCI itselg needs to take time to consider the recommendations and implementation thereof?

It has taken the UCI far too wrong to address these issues. But at last they have done so, although only after the campaign by USADA which the UCI seemed very unhappy about for a long time.

Hopefully cycling can move into a phase where suspicion does not automatically attach itself to every successful rider, but the history of doping in the Tour is as long as that of the race itself, and as is repeatedly seen in many sports, the dopers are one, or more, steps ahead of the testers all the time.

And so ends the “Lance Armstrong Affair”.

He achieved remarkable feats. He became one f the leading riders in the world. He recovered from cancer which was expected to end his life. He came back and was the most successful Tour rider in history. He went on to raise huge sums through his Livestrong charity for cancer research.

Now his sporting reputation is ruined. Does that detract from his charitable exploits? That is a matter for debate. Some would see his activities as a front for his mis-deeds.

Others would view the good he has done, whether or not for a good motive, as a positive in itself.

He has shown his ability to be a force for good.

Perhaps his future might follow a similar path to that of John Profumo, the former Minister forced to resign in the early 1960’s as a result of a “sex scandal” but who stepped back after that from public life and became a tireless worker for good causes and charities, without trading on his notoriety.

I will remember the imperious way in which Armstrong rode in winning his Tours, always looking in complete control of the race and ready, whenever the moment required it, to race away from his competitors. It is a similar memory to that of Ben Johnson at the 1988 Olympics. Even though he was caught the next day and disqualified, anyone who saw his remarkable pace over 100 metres will never forget it.

The memories cannot be excised, but the titles, awards and prize money can.

Now the challenge for the UCI is to save its own reputation and that of its sport. The concern is that its priorities are in that order, rather than the reverse.

Posted by Paul McConville  

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34 Comments

Filed under Cycling, Doping, Lance Armstrong

34 responses to “The UCI Acts “Decisively” Over Lance Armstrong – Stable Doors Will Be Addressed Next

  1. Marching on Together

    Fernando Escartín, 3rd in the 1999 Tour, has already stated that he does not wish to be elevated to the top step on the podium: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/escartin-im-not-interested-in-second-place-in-the-tour

    As for reclaiming prize money from Armstrong and colleagues, if you weigh on the one hand the prize money obtained through cheating by them, and on the other the massive amounts of cash which they brought into the sport, then I suspect that the UCI and race organisers would end up owing Armstrong money.

    • JohnBhoy

      Do I detect an unspoken but inferred parallel, with a dark hint of mitigation, in the direction of Rangers?

    • Den

      @Marching on together

      Nobody mentioned netting the money brought in against the prize money received. in any case there is an argument that they greatly damage the sport when exposed and therefore at least nulify what extra revenue they brought in.

      What is in question is whether they should be made to pay back prize money they got through cheating. This is an objective and verifiable amount. In my view UCI should at least reclaim the money from them.

      • Marching on Together

        Fair point. I think though that it is fairly indisputable that we would not have had the massive growth in interest in professional road cycling in the US,(and probably also in the UK and Australia) without the Lance Armstrong effect. This brought major new sponsors into the sport, and despite Rabobank and others pulling out recenlty, I believe that on balance the financial effects are in positive balance, no matter the damage done to the sport.

        • Den

          I think we may have to agree to disagree. I wouldn’t doubt the Armstrong factor in raising Cycling’s profile in the US. On the other hand his disgrace will adversely impact the sport to perhaps the same degree.

          i don’t believe that the full damage has been seen and in the long term may set cycling back a long way. I am sure more sponsors will be considering their position regarding cycling.

          • Marching on Together

            We will see. My only comment is that IMHO most Americans (apart from the hard-core cyclists and cycling fans) don’t really know enough about it all to really care about what Armstrong did or did not do. Therefore, I think the impact on the current generation of cyclists and cycling fans in the US will be minimal.

  2. ecojon

    ‘Now his sporting reputation is ruined. Does that detract from his charitable exploits? That is a matter for debate. Some would see his activities as a front for his mis-deeds’.

    It is almost chilling how closely this phrase might ‘fit’ the Savile situation although personally I believe nothing could ever be regarded as a counterbalance to the damage done to the victims of Savile.

    Of course we must look beyond Savile for culpability as well and wonder how many people in charities and caring professions were blinded as to what was actually going on under their noses because they were distracted by a bit of celebrity stardust.

    Society has failed on a number of levels with regard to Savile and possibly co-workers of his at the BBC (and elsewhere) who have been flooding the airwaves to say they ‘knew’ or heard the stories but did nothing have most to answer.

    In some ways they mirror the victims by saying that if they had raised it at the time no one would have believed them. I think that it an insult to the victims who were selected by a predator well-versed in not only identifying vulnerability but in exploiting it and had the means to carry it out.

    Terrible emotional damage suffered by victims, many self-blaming by wrongly believing they were in some way responsible, prevented exposure. Even the age of a lot of victims militated against complaints being made and most of all, especially in previous more secret times, the ‘shame’ factor would be a strong psychological barrier.

    And the co-workers – well they suffered none of the above. All that worried them was either keeping their job or advancing their careers. That’s why they kept quiet and they should be publicly challenged NOW. If they are honest they will tell the truth but I won’t hold my breath.

    However, I do realise that their recent ‘confessions’ are an attempt to unburden their guilt for doing nothing at the right time and possibly saving some victims from the ordeals they suffered.

    I have no intention of accepting that weak excuse and the co-workers will have to live with their real guilt and hopefully discover that peace of mind only comes through accepting their own moral failures and becoming better stronger people in the time left to them. That is the way to make amends – it is not by treading the Z-list celeb trail – and it is never too late to make the effort.

  3. Ernesider

    Pat McQuaid should resign immediately or be turfed out. Of course he knew what was going on and his only reaction was to ostracise and threaten those who tried to expose the druggies. To my mind he is a greater disgrace to the sport of cycling than Lance Armstrong.

  4. Rich753

    The capacity of the UCI to either do the wrong thing or fail to do the right thing seemed limitless, so I for one am prepared to offer a sincere congratulations to them have having taken some big steps forward.

    What they’ve done has been recommended by pretty much everybody with a stake in the health of the sport, sensible measures with the key one being the invitation to an “independent” external body to offer advice. Plainly they don’t get full approval until we know the make up of the independent commission but it looks pretty positive at the moment. And if it takes time, then so be it.

    McQuaid is right to be proud of where cycling is now in the fight against drug cheats. I might be wrong but I suspect that many other sports are sitting on a time bomb of potential PR disasters – athletics has allegations of systematic doping among Kenyan athletes and persistent rumours of a doping culture in North African middle distance runners, tennis appears to have a hugely lax enforcement regime just to pick two examples.

    So two cheers to the UCI, with the third reserved for teh progress report in 18 months time!

    • Ernesider

      Pat McQuaid has nothing to be proud of in the fight against drug cheats.

      Velonation – Thursday, August 09, 2012

      ‘UCI is sadly destroying the credibility it has slowly been regaining’ – Howman

      World Anti Doping Agency Director General David Howman has issued a warning to UCI president Pat McQuaid that its actions in relation to the Lance Armstrong/US Postal Service doping investigation are causing serious harm to the federation’s standing and reputation, as well as possibly breaking the WADA Code.

      The rebuke comes in an email letter sent by Howman to McQuaid on Tuesday, which was published on the PACER.gov website yesterday. It was part of the US Anti Doping Agency’s reply brief sent to the Texas federal court (click here to read) which will soon rule in terms of jurisdiction of disciplinary action.

      “…UCI’s refusal to cooperate with USADA appear to me to be against article 23.2.3 of the Code,” warns Howman at the end of the five page letter.

      “We therefore urge you to reconsider your position and to provide all support to USADA in the conduct of this case, including all documents required by them.” The sting comes in the final line: “By adopting its current position UCI is sadly destroying the credibility it has slowly been regaining in the past years in the fight against doping,” he warned.

      • Rich753

        Frankly I’m getting a bit tired of WADA’s posturing – cycling has been an easy target for many years but has persistently done more than any other sport to clean up it’s act.

        No other sport has had biological passport in place for so long, whereabouts monitoring so closely, such close attention paid to power outputs calibrated against mass, the proactive actions of many team managers, for those reasons I stand by my assertion that cycling has much to be proud of.

        Note my careful distinction between cycling as a sport and the UCI’s actions – as I said at teh start the “capacity of the UCI to either do the wrong thing or fail to do the right thing seemed limitless”

        When WADA start paying a lot more attention to athletics and tennis then I’ll be a lot more impressed with their position.

  5. For years both David Walsh and Paul Kimmage queried the Armstrong victories and possible doping, they also suggested that UCI (Cycling’s Governing body) were involved in offering Armstrong a certain degree of protection, while ignoring the compelling evidence of his continual cheating.
    There is a sporting parallel.

  6. Martin

    Times change – culture changes – rules change.

    Threre are those who will condem Lance Armstrong, I am not amoung them.

    In the early years of cycle racing in France the distances covered were viewed by the spectator as imposibilities of human endurance. When the imposible became normal the race organisers simply added miles and climbs and pain.

    The spectators were not far wrong the feats were indeed beyond ordinary human endurance.

    The pain and torment suffered by the riders can only be guessed at by those who have never tried it and the solutions the riders found however extreme (sometimes bizzar) can’t be easily judged from the outside.

    The early pioneers of road racing tried everything that seemed to offer an end to the pain, alchohol, amphetamines, opiates even strychnine was tried.

    Anything to switch off the endless insufferable agony.

    As time passed new ways were found to dilute the pain.

    Steriods to promote muscle growth and extend trainning , blood products, sleeping in pressurised vessels (not illegal though only some cycling teams can affoard the equipment) to concentrate oxygen in the blood.

    The races were geared from the beginning to sell newspapers and magazines, cycling kit and any product which could gain advantage in the market place by associating with heros of the road. Very little thought was given to what the riders themselves would risk to become champions. Cyclists have given up thier long term health and some thier lives for the chance to stand on the podium in Paris.

    We as viewers of this race avidly view the Circus Maximus with a deadly fasination and we buy the products it sells.

    We can do that.

    But can we judge the gladiators from the roadside, or from the comfort of our sofas?

    One rider, gladiator if you will, has made something good out of this. Instead of selling newspapers etc, he deccided to sell the idea that with enough funding the scourge of cancer could become a thing of the past.

    He had good reason to do this as have many who have experienced cancer themselves or witnessed the suffering of those close to them.

    The fact is that Lance Armstrong worked himself into a position in which he could fund cancer research and aliviate suffering of a scale way beyond the reach of most people.

    Were people hurt on the way? were lies told? You will not get any defence from me on this, it is a matter for Lance Armstrong himself to wrestle with.

    So how do we judge the work of a man?
    Well, Walt Wittman gives a clue.

    ‘ Do I contradict myself?
    Very well, then I contradict myself,
    I am large, I contain multitudes’

    • Rich753

      Nice sentiments. Unfortunately not grounded in reality – Armstrong and Livestrong fund no cancer research, none. They are not doing anything at all to make the “scourge of cancer a thing of the past”.

      Their mission is to help cancer sufferers and their families find the support they need – arguably more social work than medicine. Doing good work by all accounts, but also spending money on promoting “Brand Armstrong” that could be spent on their core mission.

      I just did a google search on livestrong and top of teh list was a link to livestrong.com, a commercial site dedicated to making Armstrong even richer. It did have a link to hte livestrong foundation (livestrong.org) but less prominent that efforts to sell stuff.

      I almost envy you your rose-tinted view, I’d like to believe in fairies too but to me the evidence indicates pretty clearly that Armstrong is a cynical manipulator who has conned and is continuing to con millions of folks.

      • Martin

        ‘Their mission is to help cancer sufferers and thier families find the support they need’ . A good cause yes?

        Isn’t the lack of support part of the scourge?

        • Martin

          The trouble with people we perceive as bad in one aspect of their lives, is that they often do good in another field. My post questions how we judge and if we are qualified to judge.

          • martin c

            @ martin

            I disagree, Armstrong cheated, how much damage will be done to his other persona of cancer champion, time will tell?

            He is brand Armstrong and will live and die by it If Armstrong had been found guilty of an impropriety in another aspect of his life it may well have impacted his cycling (tiger woods).

            • Martin

              Martin c,

              Lance Armstrong’s ability to fund raise in support of cancer sufferers has been severly damaged, quite posibly ended. Time will, as you say, tell.

            • martin c

              @ martin

              i have reread your post and asked how we judge and are we qualified to judge?

              The answer to the second part is no we are not qualified but Armstrong was judged by his peers and we judge on this point, to answer the first part There should be no confusion between merits on the sporting field and what is achieved in conjunction with them.

    • JohnBhoy

      “… beyond ordinary human endurance… pain and torment suffered… insufferable agony…” Martin, we are referring to adults who ride a bike and not tortured prisoners of war? Their participation is also voluntary I understand. Irrespective of the money LA brought into his chosen “sport” – it does seem to be populated by drug cheats – or his contribution to charitable causes, he was a serial, and unrepentant, cheat. If you have to use drugs to win at sport then what’s the point? When heroes are exposed as cheats then they deserve all they get. Let him be praised for his charitable deeds but his measure as a sportsman is tarnished; and the former does not in any way excuse the latter.

      • Ernesider

        ” Let him be praised for his charitable deeds but his measure as a sportsman is tarnished; and the former does not in any way excuse the latter.”

        Lance Armstrong is a nasty piece of work, increasingly so as the tide of evidence became unstoppable. He has been snapping and snarling like a cornered rat, willing to say anything to destroy the reputation of anyone who told the truth about his drug polluted cycling career.

        • Jono

          If all you say is 100 percent accurate, is it fair to say that he acted alone? Are there others around him that also deserve vilification? Is it possible that some of his accusers and some of those giving evidence deserve to be in the dock with him?

          Or….did he act alone, like craig whyte, like jimmy saville.

          • JohnBhoy

            Jono, there is merit in that hypothesis.

          • Rich753

            There were 6 others charged by USADA alongside him, as leaders of a doping ring, so no he didn’t act alone but it’s probably fair to see that he is seen as one of two ring-leaders and was happy to take and profit from the public adulation that followed.

            Some of his accusers have indeed been punished, otehrs have retired so sporting sanctions are no longer relevant tho’ they may lose titles etc. It remains to be seen whether there is any appetite to claim back remuneration.

            Incidentally I read that Saville may have been part of a “ring” as well.

        • JohnBhoy

          Ernesider, He deserves the public opprobrium aimed his way and if it turns out that his charitable work is also fraudulent then shame on him.

  7. great article paul,my own gut feeling is that this case should not set a precedent in any way for the S P L commission on the E B T SCANDAL,there are e few differences ,and i’m not going to go into them ,rangers are guilty of tax aviodance or tax evasion and illegal contracts,their titles therefore must be stripped AND RE-ASSIGNED TO THE TEAM WHO WHERE RUNNERS-UP thats the only way to ensure that FIN FAIR PLAY,SPORTING INTGTY, AND JUSTICE can be served on their crimes “nuff said’ DOWN WITH SEVCO

    • carl31

      The SPL Commission isn’t “on the E B T SCANDAL”, its about the possible ineligibility of players due to ‘dual contracts’. The SPL Commission is not concerned with the tax arrangements involved.

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