Armstrong revelations could see cycling kicked out of Olympics says former WADA chief (and current IOC member)

Dick Pound says it could happen, so could it? We take a look at the facts, the IOC politics, and the law of unintended consequences

by Tony Farrelly   January 16, 2013  

Olympic Rings and Velodrome

Dick Pound, former head of the World Anti Doping Authority (WADA) and a current International Olympic Committee member has said cycling could lose its status as an Olympic sport if Lance Armstrong implicated senior figures at the UCI in any revelations about doping in the sport.

While the UCI was offering "no comment" regarding Armstrongls likely revelations to Oprah one of the organisation's must vocal and powerful critics was not feeling so inhibited. Speaking ahead of the broadcast of the much anticipated interview between Lance Armstrong and Oprah Winfrey - much of which seems to have been extensively leaked since it was recorded yesterday - Pound suggested that cycling could be given between 4 and 8 years away from the Olympics to sort itself out.

According to Pound the IOC would be left with little choice but to take such a course of action if Armstrong names senior UCI officials  - most likely the former and current UCI presidents Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid - as having turned a blind eye or worse actively colluded in the highly organised doping regime operated by Armstrong and his USPS team.

In the scenario sketched out by Pound in a telephone interview with Reuters the IOC would take the view that the only thing that could force cycling to clean up its act is if those in charge of the sport had to deal with it losing its Olympic status and then having to earn its way back in by tackling doping.

Mr Pound went on to suggest that the IOC would have to lead the fight against doping in cycling as those in charge at the UCI did not have a good enough track record.

It is worth nothing that as head of WADA Dick Pound spent most of his term fighting with first Hein Verbruggen and then Pat McQuaid over first the UCI's perceived inaction over doping and then over the way it implemented the biological passport programme.

Both Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid are also, like Pound, IOC members (Verbruggen has been an honorary member since 2008) something whoever is in charge of the seating plan at IOC get togethers must be keenly aware of.

Pound's comments while no doubt striking a chord with many in the cycling world who would like to see the back of the current regime at the UCI along with root and branch reform of the sport also seem to betray a basic lack of understanding of the different disciplines of cycle sport. This is particularly strange when you consider that Pound was tasked with setting up and running WADA as a direct result of the Festina scandal at the 1998 Tour de France. While it is true that the UCI and national cycling associations across the world would indeed be seriously effected by any loss of Olympic status it's effect on professional road racing would be negligible - the road race has only been open to pro cyclists since 1996 and has never been more than a 'nice to have' on a rider's palmares.

It doesn't take much imagination to construct a scenario where the pros take the opportunity provided by any weakening of the UCI to go their own way free of interference from international sporting bodies in much the same was as Formula One or the NFL. That would leave track cycling which places a much greater importance on the Games to find its way back in to the Olympic fold as best it could.

Nor in his comments to Reuters does Pound explain how the IOC could exercise control over cycling if it was no longer an Olympic sport.

If there wasn't an election for the IOC presidency in the offing it would be hard to see Mr Pound's comments as much more than mischief making at the expense of two fellow IOC members. And even if the nightmare scenario were to come true as Pound tells Reuters the IOC might show mercy at the last moment. He cites the example of weightlifting which was brought to the brink of expulsion from the Olympics a few years ago, but when it came to it the IOC decided it would be unfair to punish the majority of innocent athletes for their governing body's inability to deal with the sins of the few.

However IOC politics being what they are he also points out that it is unlikely that anything as radical as kicking cycling out of the Olympics would happen in the final year of the current presidency of Jacques Rogge. According to Pound it would need the election of a new man at the top heading a new Olympic regime in 2014. Pound has yet to say whether he will run for the IOC presidency in 2014 – he is a former IOC vice president and lost to Rogges the last time the post came up for election. Now that really would be something for the UCI to worry about.

18 user comments

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Ignorance is bliss it seems. Cycling only looks dirty because doping controls actually try to scratch the surface. If other Olympic sports had the same testing as cycling they'd come out far worse - why doesn't Dick start asking why so many tennis players wear braces or what out of competition testing looks like for long distance runners?

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posted by CraigS [135 posts]
16th January 2013 - 8:47

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i have tried to think hard about this and the only sport i came up with that i haven't heard about doping is ski jumping. I am sure there is just haven't heard about any.

so not much good for the summer olympics then!

People cheat, those at the IOC, WADA, etc should know that well enough, how many back handers do sports governing bodies take!

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posted by mrmo [1008 posts]
16th January 2013 - 9:17

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If they start throwing sports out of the Olympics for doping offences, it's going to become a very small event - what sports have no drugs problem?

posted by a.jumper [679 posts]
16th January 2013 - 9:18

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CraigS +1.

Also, the current shitstorm is, lest we forget, mainly regarding past incidents.

If I could have, say, 6 bikes, would it stop me drooling over others that I don't have?

posted by notfastenough [2890 posts]
16th January 2013 - 9:27

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Well, it would be, wouldn't it?

Other commenters are correct to say that if all sports with drugs problems were thrown out of the Olympics then there wouldn't be many left; bring it on I say as its all a load of commercial, drug fuelled crap anyway.

posted by offshore_dave [36 posts]
16th January 2013 - 10:07

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A breakaway needs to happen asap , all the big guns in cycling have to do it now. Besides all the best races are owned by other organizations surely it wouldn't be that difficult, the UCI are now acting like a cornered animal and will only do more damage until they are put out of their misery.

posted by mick intherain [14 posts]
16th January 2013 - 10:38

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offshore_dave wrote:
Well, it would be, wouldn't it?

Other commenters are correct to say that if all sports with drugs problems were thrown out of the Olympics then there wouldn't be many left; bring it on I say as its all a load of commercial, drug fuelled crap anyway.


Totally agree, to much money in sport destroys it.

posted by belgravedave [164 posts]
16th January 2013 - 10:49

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IOC, UCI, FIFA and so on blah, blah, blah. All as bent as a nine-bob note.

posted by Clenbutador [15 posts]
16th January 2013 - 11:22

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Armstrong uses remorse enhancing drugs on Oprah show.

AUSTIN, TX—Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong kicked off a campaign to restore his image Monday by admitting in a television interview with Oprah Winfrey that he used a sophisticated cocktail of performance-enhancing drugs to evince remorse and shame. “To make the kind of heartfelt apology I am making now without the help of drugs would be impossible, and so when it came to convincing millions of people that I am a decent human being who is capable of actual regret, I needed an edge,” Armstrong reportedly says in the extensive television interview, which sources said the cyclist prepared for by injecting himself with stamina-supporting recombinant erythropoietin and methocarbamol, a muscle relaxant that helps to slacken the Depressor anguli oris, Corrugator supercilii and other facial muscles required to frown and cry. “Make no mistake, it still takes a lot of skill to do what I am doing right now."

(Taken from The Onion website)

posted by LeDomestique [34 posts]
16th January 2013 - 11:25

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Totally agree - dunp the UCI and move on to a cleaner world.

posted by LeDomestique [34 posts]
16th January 2013 - 11:28

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Re: The Onion report

Ha ha!

Sometimes its just good to laugh at these things and not take life so seriously.

Its minus 3 here in Scotland and I am going to go out for a blast on the bike now for some real sport Big Grin

posted by offshore_dave [36 posts]
16th January 2013 - 11:40

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And just to inject a bit of levity, I understand tennis players wear braces to keep their trousers up. (Thank you very much, I'm here all week).

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
16th January 2013 - 15:38

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CraigS wrote:
Ignorance is bliss it seems. Cycling only looks dirty because doping controls actually try to scratch the surface. If other Olympic sports had the same testing as cycling they'd come out far worse - why doesn't Dick start asking why so many tennis players wear braces or what out of competition testing looks like for long distance runners?

Cycling looks dirty because it is. Lance Armstrong was not caught by doping controls, but by the efforts of USADA, which were fought all the way by the UCI. (The body charged with ensuring the sport's cleanliness).
Although the riders themselves may be cleaner, the governing body remains as dirty as ever. The only way to make sure that the Armstrong affair is not just another one in a series of scandals is not to kick cycling out of the Olympics, but to kick the UCI out of cycling.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
16th January 2013 - 15:40

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So, why wasn't athletics kicked out of the Olympics after Ben Johnson?

It's ridiculous and it won't happen. What hasn't been mentioned is that McQuaid and Verbruggen could leave the UCI and the new top men would be elected on a clean agenda...

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [715 posts]
16th January 2013 - 15:54

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Dump the UCI irrespective. Pound is just letting his tummy rumble.

Ah, but that was then

posted by Pitstone Peddler [104 posts]
16th January 2013 - 19:17

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Re: The Onion

So, so funny. Right on the button.
As regards the Olympics, turn back the clock & make all events open to amateurs only...

Currently going slower than I'd like...

posted by stealth [169 posts]
16th January 2013 - 19:48

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The Rumpo Kid wrote:
CraigS wrote:
Ignorance is bliss it seems. Cycling only looks dirty because doping controls actually try to scratch the surface. If other Olympic sports had the same testing as cycling they'd come out far worse - why doesn't Dick start asking why so many tennis players wear braces or what out of competition testing looks like for long distance runners?

Cycling looks dirty because it is. Lance Armstrong was not caught by doping controls, but by the efforts of USADA, which were fought all the way by the UCI. (The body charged with ensuring the sport's cleanliness).
Although the riders themselves may be cleaner, the governing body remains as dirty as ever. The only way to make sure that the Armstrong affair is not just another one in a series of scandals is not to kick cycling out of the Olympics, but to kick the UCI out of cycling.

And I imagine the only reason the UCI failed to fight it and keep it covered was because they lacked the money/power. Football has a lot more money/power and whilst Operation Puerto hit cyclists, Barcelona and Real Madrid were mentioned and then dodged it. Those 40 year olds still keeping up with 19 year olds on the football pitch look as much like their diet might involve Spanish steak as any cyclist!

NFL are happy not doing any blood tests despite knowing they can't then detect HGH and that would be the drug of choice for any player. Cycling is no worse than other sports, they just haven't been able to keep it hidden so well.

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posted by CraigS [135 posts]
16th January 2013 - 23:05

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CraigS wrote:
The Rumpo Kid wrote:
CraigS wrote:
Ignorance is bliss it seems. Cycling only looks dirty because doping controls actually try to scratch the surface. If other Olympic sports had the same testing as cycling they'd come out far worse - why doesn't Dick start asking why so many tennis players wear braces or what out of competition testing looks like for long distance runners?

Cycling looks dirty because it is. Lance Armstrong was not caught by doping controls, but by the efforts of USADA, which were fought all the way by the UCI. (The body charged with ensuring the sport's cleanliness).
Although the riders themselves may be cleaner, the governing body remains as dirty as ever. The only way to make sure that the Armstrong affair is not just another one in a series of scandals is not to kick cycling out of the Olympics, but to kick the UCI out of cycling.

And I imagine the only reason the UCI failed to fight it and keep it covered was because they lacked the money/power. Football has a lot more money/power and whilst Operation Puerto hit cyclists, Barcelona and Real Madrid were mentioned and then dodged it.

Not quite. The newspaper Le Monde claimed to have in its possession "documents" linking Real and Barcelona with Dr. Fuentes. It was unable to produce said documents and had to pay damages.
We know for a fact that the UCI accepted "donations" totalling 125,000 Dollars from Lance Armstrong AND arranged for him to visit a testing facility. I don't know of any governing body that would behave in a similar fashion, or even of any ubsubstantiated rumours of such behaviour. I'm not saying that other sports are clean, far from it. I'm just saying that cycling is dirtier than we would wish, and the governing body is either complicit, or so incompetent they might as well be.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
17th January 2013 - 0:37

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