Lance Armstrong says he is “grateful” to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission for giving him the opportunity to talk about his doping, while David Millar has said he is disappointed that he didn’t have the chance to give his own opinions to the panel, which published its report this morning.
The two former professionals are emblematic of cycling’s struggles with doping. Armstrong, the seven-times Tour de France winner, vehemently maintained his innocence for several months after being banned from sport for life, while Millar, banned for two years in 2004 after admitting doping, became the peloton’s most outspoken critic of drug use after his return to the sport.
Writing for Telegraph Sport which has taken him on as a columnist, Millar, who retired at the end of last season, said that after reading the report, he felt “disappointment” at not “making the time” to speak to the CIRC, saying that due to racing and family commitments “I never found time to travel to them and they never once mentioned coming to me.”
The Scot welcomed the parts of the report that dealt with institutional failures to tackle doping within the UCI, but expressed strong misgivings about the way it addressed the current extent of use of performance enhancing drugs within the sport.
With people interviewed by the CIRC allowed to request anonymity, Millar, who reckons 25 past or present riders [presumably excluding those now in team management roles, listed separately] appeared before the panel, noted that only 16 agreed for their names to be disclosed, with only one – Chris Froome – currently racing.
He asked: “So who did they interview in order to gauge the state of the modern peloton? Because the majority of those published interviewees left the sport due to a doping ban never to return.
“Aren’t these exactly the type of people who suffer from ‘the “false consensus effect” where athletes with a history of drug use overestimate the prevalence of drug use among other athletes’ that the report talks of?”
The report was unable to pin down the extent of doping within today’s peloton, with interviewees giving figures that varied widely between 20 and 90 per cent of riders – the latter from a “respected cycling professional” (the wording suggest not necessarily a professional cyclist).
Among those known to have provided evidence but whose names were not listed is the Italian rider, Mauro Santambrogio, banned for 18 months after testing positive for EPO during the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
Last October, less than a fortnight before his ban expired and with plans to return to racing, the 30-year-old tested positive for testosterone. He claims he was using it to treat erectile dysfunction, and plans to contest the case.
Millar said he didn't believe the report reflected "the state and mood of the modern peloton” and that “it feels almost tabloidesque in its description of the state of doping today,” congratulating Froome for coming forward but asking, "where are the others?” Millar later reiterated his criticism in an interview with the BBC.
Millar said that while the CIRC had appreciated the need to learn from the past, it had failed in recognising “the necessity to understand the present to fix a baseline from which to move forward.”
He also said that with athletes already subject to stringent whereabouts requirements under the World Anti-Doping Code, a proposal to introduce targeted testing between 11pm and 6am “shows zero empathy for the current state of cycling.”
He went on: “The majority of riders winning the biggest races are clean. Of course, there are still dopers, just as there will always be people who break the law in non-sporting life. It’s human nature.”
“My regret for not speaking with CIRC is tinged by irony, because I am an ex-doper,” reflected Millar. “For many I will always be a doper; which is true.
“I, like many others, have worked incredibly hard to create an anti-doping culture within cycling, and yet the CIRC report paints a picture of a new omertà and once again it’s the innocent and clean cyclists who are silent.
“I wish I could have given them a voice,” he concluded.
The CIRC’s report was highly critical of the relationship between Armstrong and the UCI, including former presidents Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid had helped protect the American, had “defended” and “protected” him and given the American preferential treatment, despite “strong reason to suspect” he was cheating and that he enjoyed a “special relationship” with the governing body.
According to the CIRC, that included, in what United States Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart described last night as “a stunning example of deceit” allowing Armstrong’s lawyers to help draft a supposedly independent report into allegations he tested positive for EPO during the 1999 Tour de France.
Unlike Millar, Armstrong did appear before the CIRC. In a statement issued in response to the commission’s report that appears on the USA Today website, he said: "I am grateful to CIRC for seeking the truth and allowing me to assist in that search. I am deeply sorry for many things I have done.
“However, it is my hope that revealing the truth will lead to a bright, dope-free future for the sport I love, and will allow all young riders emerging from small towns throughout the world in years to come to chase their dreams without having to face the lose-lose choices that so many of my friends, teammates and opponents faced.”
Concluding his statement, Armstrong, who still maintains he did not engage in doping after he came out of retirement in 2009 – USADA maintains he did – said: “I hope that all riders who competed and doped can feel free to come forward and help the tonic of truth heal this great sport."
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