UCI president Brian Cookson has urged riders who doped during their careers to come forward and testify before an independent commission – but he has denied having been in contact with Lance Armstrong.
Cookson, elected UCI president at the end of September replacing Pat McQuaid, sent an email to the news agency Reuters in response to allegations against a number of past and present riders contained in the autobiography, published this week, of Danish cyclist Michael Rasmussen.
The former Rabobank rider, sacked while leading the Tour de France in 2007 after lying to his team about his whereabouts prior to the race, confessed to doing earlier this year.
Rasmussen said that under the supervision of team doctor Geert Leinders, all of the members of the Rabobank team during that year’s Tour were doping.
One of his former team mates, the Spanish former world champion Oscar Freire, threatened to sue, leading Rasmussen to issue a retraction saying that he never saw Freire nor another member of the squad, Juan Antonio Flecha, use drugs.
Yesterday, Dutch anti-doping authorities said they were satisfied that Pieter Weening, also racing the 2007 Tour with Rabobank, had no case to answer. The now Orica-GreenEdge rider has the support of his team.
Among other riders he implicated was 2012 Giro d’Italia champion, Ryder Hesjedal. The Garmin-Sharp rider admitted last week that he had taken performance enhancing drug a decade ago when he was with Rabobank’s development team.
In his email, Cookson said: “All such allegations and confessions will be looked at by the new Independent Commission and we would urge anyone concerned to bring forward their information to the Commission.”
Speaking at the UCI Track Cycling Classics World Cup at the weekend, Cookson confirmed that contrary to reports last week, there had been no contact between the UCI and Lance Armstrong, banned for life last year and stripped of results including the seven Tour de France titles he won between 1998 and 2005.
"Lance Armstrong has not been in touch with me," said Cookson, quoted in The Guardian. "I don't want to talk about any individual, however significant,” he went on.
“There will be an opportunity for anyone who wants to contribute, but it will be on terms dictated by WADA and it will be the same terms and conditions for everyone. We want to offer some degree of anonymity, and some names may have to be redacted in any final report."
Cookson acknowledged that current rules regarding anti-doping mean that the outcome of any process designed to help cycling come to terms with its past and allow riders and team staff to own up to past transgressions might not have a satisfactory outcome.
"It's difficult to do within the WADA code,” he explained. “If people have committed an offence, they are still guilty. I have a lot of sympathy for people who say, 'OK, it's outside the statute of limitations but that guy stole my career.'"
He added that the issue of establishing the independent commission he has pledged to put in place to examine the UCI’s role in the Armstrong scandal was turning out to be "a bit slower than I might have hoped, but the devil is in the detail, and I don't want to be too hasty"
Cookson said: "We are nearly there, but I'm not going to be rushed into it. I'm very anxious not to step on anyone's toes and do something that has the assent of WADA and the international sporting world."
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.