Written by Darril Fosty (ISN) – Photo by Jan Jacob Mekes
July 28, 2013 (ISN) – One day before the Tour de France is set to begin, the cycling world has found itself in a firestorm of controversy. This time, statements by Lance Armstrong in the French newspaper Le Monde casts a dark shadow over the 100th anniversary of the race.
Lance Armstong during 2010 Tour de France (photo by Jan Jacob Mekes)
In an interview with journalist Stephane Mandard, Armstrong indicated once again he is ready to speak to US Anti-Doping officials stating, “The whole story hasn’t been told. The USADA reasoned decision didn’t give a full picture of what was going on in cycling from the end of the 1980s to the present day. It succeeded in ruining one man’s life, but it didn’t do any good in terms of benefitting cycling.”
When asked by Mandard, if it is “possible to perform with doping?” Armstrong responded, “Win the Tour de France? No. It would be impossible to win without doping. The Tour is an endurance-based event where oxygen is a limiting factor.”
UCI President Pat McQuaid, commenting on an article in Le Monde today, issued the following statement:
“It is very sad that Lance Armstrong has decided to make this statement on the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France.
“However, I can tell him categorically that he is wrong. His comments do absolutely nothing to help cycling.
“The culture within cycling has changed since the Armstrong era and it is now possible to race and win clean.
“Riders and teams owners have been forthright in saying that it is possible to win clean – and I agree with them.
“Cycling today has the most sophisticated anti-doping infrastructure in sport. Measures such as the introduction of the blood passport, the whereabouts system and the ‘no-needle’ policy are the backbone of our relentless fight against doping.
“Armstrong has already credited the whereabouts system and the blood passport. As he said himself in his interview with Oprah Winfrey: ‘The introduction of the biological passport [in 2008] worked.’
“Armstrong’s views and opinions are shaped by his own behaviour and time in the peloton. Cycling has now moved on.
“The key thing is that the whole culture in cycling has undergone a complete sea-change. We may not yet have eradicated doping completely – unfortunately there will always be some riders who persist – but we are catching them, and the attitude in the peloton has switched against them.
“We will never turn back – and my work to ensure that we have a clean sport is unrelenting.
“In addition, the UCI is totally committed to conducting an independent audit into its behaviour during the years when Armstrong was winning the Tour. The UCI’s invitation to WADA to work with us on this stands.
“If WADA will not, however, the UCI will press ahead itself and appoint independent experts to carry out this audit.
“The management committee, meeting in Bergen this month, together with the sub-committee appointed to establish the audit together with WADA, have reiterated their total commitment to completing the process.
“And once the audit is completed, the UCI remains totally committed to some form of ‘truth process’ for professional cycling.
“As I have said on numerous occasions, I have nothing to hide and no fear of any investigation or Truth and Reconciliation process. If Armstrong – or indeed anyone else – has evidence to the contrary, he should produce it now and put a stop to this ongoing damage to cycling.”
In the end, the UCI has much work ahead to rehabilitate the image of cycling. Maybe it is time for cycling to invoke the image of chimney sweeper Maurice Garin’s win of the first Tour de France 100 years ago in the hopes of a new dope-free era absent of the blackened soot-filled legacy still actively burning the sport.