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
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.