UCI president Pat McQuaid insists that cycling should be judged by the success of London 2012 and not by the fallout of the Lance Armstrong scandal, which has dominated headlines about the sport since the Olympics. The Irishman, who has headed world cycling’s governing body since succeeding Hein Verbruggen in 2005, also hit out at pressure group Change Cycling Now, who have called for his resignation.
Reflecting on the past year in an interview with Reuters at UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland, McQuaid insisted that the events that led to Armstrong receiving a life ban and being stripped of results including the seven Tour de France titles he won between 1999 and 2005 belonged in the past.
"It deals with a period between 1999 and 2005 when most people now realise that the armoury in the fight against doping was much weaker than it is today," he maintained. "Those guys were able to cheat and beat the system at that time because the system wasn't strong enough.”
In the press conference in October when the UCI revealed it had ratified the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s Reasoned Decision in the Armstrong case, McQuaid was asked why he was focusing only on the period up until 2005 when USADA had made clear that it had found evidence of his having doped after his return to the sport in 2009.
At that time, McQuaid said, "I don't accept the findings in 2009 and 2010," although the UCI itself has come under criticism for permitting Armstrong to return at the 2009 Tour Down Under when he hadn’t been part of its biological passport programme for the minimum six months required by the UCI’s own statutes.
In the Reuters interview published this morning, however, McQuaid, who had also said that the ongoing Padua investigation in Italy only concerned “Older cyclists – riders whose careers are already over” insisted that the sport had now been reformed.
"Now we have the biological passport, where we do 10,000 tests a year at a cost of €7.5 million,” he explained. "We invest in anti-doping and we have the no-needle policy I introduced, which means no teams or doctors are allowed to use needles except for medical necessity.
"We've also introduced a rule whereby any cyclist convicted of doping in a team can never come back into sport as part of the entourage," he added.
"That will take time to come through, but it means in 10 or 15 years time, that no entourage will have a member of a team who was involved in doping."
He also rejected claims that the commission ordered by the UCI to examine its own role in the events that formed the background to the US Postal investigation wasn’t truly independent.
"A lot of our critics said it wouldn't be independent and I think we've proven them wrong," he maintained.
"I think this commission is probably the most independent high-powered commission ever to study a sport's problem and I think they'll do a very good job on it.
"The commission will hopefully prove that we did do our job correctly."
Referring to Change Cycling Now, the pressure group set up by Skins chairman Jaimie Fuller which held its inaugural meeting over two days in London earlier this month with attendees including Jonathan Vaughters, Gianni Bugno, Michael Ashenden and Paul Kimmage, McQuaid said: "I have to question their motives.
"The guy in charge from Skins, he came into sponsoring cycling in 2008. For me, it's just a stunt to promote his company."
Also at that meeting in London was three time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, who had told French newspaper Le Monde that he would be prepared to challenge McQuaid and take on the UCI presidency on an interim basis until a suitable permanent candidate could be found.
"That's not democracy,” McQuaid asserted. “We are a democracy, we have democratic structures and everybody has to work to democratic structures.
"They are coming in with a completely different thing and when you look at the group which is sitting around, CCN, they're agitators who have always been individually agitating this, that and the other.
"I have a great deal of admiration for him [LeMond] as a cyclist. But since he stopped racing, he hasn't been involved in cycling at all, apart from a few businesses, so he's not really in a position to comment on what cycling is today," McQuaid concluded.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.