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UCI editorial slams Floyd Landis and rejects claims of protecting top riders

Contador case shows commitment over doping, says UCI, but questions remain unanswered

In an extraordinary editorial on the front page of its Véloworld magazine, world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, has launched a thinly-veiled attack at Floyd Landis and rejected his claims that it has protected some top riders from doping charges.

The editorial follows comments made by UCI President Pat McQuaid at the end of November in which he branded Landis a “liar” for suggesting that he and predecessor Hein Verbruggen had been complicit in covering up potential drugs scandals involving top names in the sport.

In the editorial, which is anonymous, although it would be difficult to imagine that it would have been published without McQuaid’s approval, the UCI says: “According to a certain person who has a tendency to throw around serious accusations without the slightest evidence to back them up, the UCI protects certain riders from the risk of failing a doping test.

“Given the impressive progress that has been made in anti-doping programmes and, sadly, the ever-higher number of proceedings we have had to initiate in recent years against some of our sport’s biggest stars, it would be very interesting to know the names of these privileged riders who have enjoyed such favourable treatment.”

There’s no doubt that the “certain person” to whom the UCI refers is Landis, and if the UCI really doesn’t know the identity of at least one of the stars the former US Postal Service and Phonak rider refers to, they are the only people in cycling who don’t – Lance Armstrong, who has been at the centre of allegations made by Landis since he confessed to having doped in May this year.

The UCI, however, seeks to discredit Landis by pointing to his past inconsistencies regarding his own drug-taking, in words that echo statements made on behalf of Armstrong who, together with other former riders and management of the US Postal Service team, is the subject of an ongoing investigation in the United States led by special agent Jeff Novitzky of the Food and Drug Administration.

“For the time being we must simply look at the source of these insinuations, which
seriously tarnish the image of our sport and its leaders,” insists the UCI. “This is a person who lacks all credibility and has no sense of responsibility, who believes he now has free rein, having abused the system himself, having lied to all of us and all of you.”

The implication of that statement is one that goes well beyond the allegations made by Landis, however; one reading of it could be that the UCI is arguing that the evidence of a convicted doper carries no weight.

Translating that into the world beyond cycling, that would be the equivalent of a court rejecting evidence from someone involved in terrorism or organised crime against other members of their organisation simply because they had once been involved themselves.

It’s also curious that the UCI, which has been vocal in urging national sporting bodies and law enforcement agencies to take action to combat doping, should have nailed its colours to the mast – however obliquely – at a time when Landis’s allegations are in fact being investigated by the appropriate authorities, and it does itself a disservice by naming neither he nor Armstrong, who it should be remembered has never failed a drugs test, in the editorial.

Instead of waiting for the US investigation to run its course, the UCI seeks to deflect Landis’s assertion that it protects star names by highlighting the case of Alberto Contador, saying, “Today, as the UCI awaits the Spanish Federation’s conclusions regarding the Contador case, his theory seems all the more absurd.”

It continues: “The consistency, rigour and serenity that governed the inquiry, conducted in close cooperation with the World Anti-Doping Agency, into the abnormal test results of the triple Tour de France winner, should offer the most telling guarantee of our commitment to eradicate doping, regardless of the low levels of product detected, regardless of all the possible justifications, regardless of the rider’s impressive record, and regardless of the additional negative consequences for cycling.”

“And,” it concludes, “even in spite of the slanderous accusations and a habit of being economical with the truth.”

While it has to be acknowledged that the UCI’s stance on the Contador case, and in its earlier pursuit of Alejandro Valverde, do reflect a welcome commitment to stamping out the use of performance enhacing drugs - although it should be mentioned that they only went public on Contador after the story broke - the fact remains that for now, convicted doper or not, Landis has raised some uncomfortable questions that have yet to satisfactorily answered.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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cat1commuter | 12 years ago

I think it is a little premature of the UCI to start patting themselves on the back over their conduct in the Contador case. I don't think they've handled it particularly well up till now, and there's plenty of opportunity for future bungling, with it ending up a real mess.

(Oh, and I second the opinion that eddie11's post is spot on!)

Aapje | 12 years ago

It is a myth that Armstrong never tested positive. He did, when the samples for 1999 were retro-actively tested for EPO. Just because the results weren't sufficient for sanctioning doesn't mean that the results were negative.

The UCI got paid at least $125k by Armstrong 'to help fight doping'. An athlete paying a governing body is a huge ethical issue, since there will always be the question of whether the UCI did or is doing something for Armstrong in return. This also taints these statements by McQuaid. Is he defending Armstrong because he truthfully believes him to be innocent or is the UCI protecting a rider that bribed them?

Lungsofa74yearold | 12 years ago

Eddie 11 is spot on - they really are pathetic. Instead of remaining aloof from all the abuse and allegation going on, they decide to throw in their lot with...none other than Lance Armstrong, who may yet turn out to be the worst doper in history. If Landis is eventually vindicated by the ongoing FDA investigation etc, they will look even bigger muppets than they already do. This editorial really is crass and simply serves to illustrate they haven't got a clue about leadership, strategy or anything else for that matter. Come to think of it they are a lot like FIFA in that respect only probably a bit less corrupt. But I'm sure they are working on it.

By the way, aren't the UCI's new new technical codes of practice / regulations for bikes and components fantastic? If they had thought of this earlier, we would all still be riding around on penny farthings. I can only hope all hte manufacturers get together and tell the UCI to go boil their collective heads. Idiots.

monty dog | 12 years ago

The only thing credible that the UCI could state is: "we'll subsequently resign our posts if the evidence proves to the contrary and thus our positions become untenable".
Somehow, I can't see that happening, ever.

eddie11 | 12 years ago

The UCI really is a tinpot orgnanisation. Why can't it behave like a governing body and sit above all these things with dignity and in judgement as opposed what it is doing here (and has done for years and years sadly) and get involved in constant he said she saids squables which stuffs its credibility.

antonio | 12 years ago

Landis is dismissed as lacking credibility, he eventually openly admitted complicity in drug use, yet in America former criminals and murderers who 'turn states evidence' are believed credible despite their dishonest past, the courts seem to recognize this in sentencing. Why do the UCI refuse to accept any of his statements, perhaps things are being made a little uncomfortable.

simonmb | 12 years ago

Well. They would say that, wouldn't they.

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