UCI President Pat McQuaid rethought his previous comments about Lance Armstrong and his role in the sport of cycling. McQuaid, who is currently running for re-election as UCI President, reflected on Armstrong's doping and what kind of punishment he deserves for his infractions.
"When I look back at it, I wouldn't have said that Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. I wouldn't have said that now. It was a hard statement," UCI president Pat McQuaid told Dutch newspaper Telegraaf.
"The large majority of the peloton was on EPO in those years. But I do think Lance deserves harsher punishment because of the fame and wealth he gathered in his career."
Pat McQuaid was elected UCI president in 2005, just after Armstrong won his seventh and last Tour de France.
"Furthermore, Lance Armstrong was incredibly arrogant," the Irishman said. "He yelled at everyone who criticized him, even threatened people. He wasn't the only one on EPO but he does deserve a share of the criticism and punishment he now gets."
McQuaid and the UCI also received criticism in the fallout from the Lance Armstrong and US Postal investigation. .
"We tested Armstrong over 200 times between 1998 and 2005. USADA tested 12 times and WADA only three times. Over half of the year, Armstrong resided in the United States and was their responsibility. It's easy to shift that responsibility to the UCI but we did everything we could. The anti-doping tests weren't sophisticated enough in those years."
Disappointment is also a sentiment McQuaid has when thinking of the former Tour de France champion. "I read his books, read about his fight against cancer. He looked death into the eyes. You just don't expect anyone to risk his health with performance enhancing drugs after everything he went through? I am very disappointed in Armstrong. He lied to the UCI, the media. He lied to the entire world."
When asked what his biggest disappointment in eight years as UCI president was, McQuaid mentions another American. "Floyd Landis' positive test only two days after the Tour de France finished in Paris. I remember very vividly where I was that day.”
“My lawyer called me at the Munich airport. I knew that it wasn't the number 15 of the overall classification involved. Landis was the first time an actual Tour de France winner tested positive. The yellow jersey. It was a disaster. The phone rang for 48 hours straight and I didn't sleep for three days."
The Landis affair wasn’t the only doping headlines to dominate McQuaid start as President. Just months after he was elected president in Madrid, Operación Puerto began to unravel.
"I flew to Madrid immediately and found myself around the table with two inspectors, the Spanish Olympic committee, WADA and the minister of sports. A large doping ring was exposed and I knew cycling would receive a hard blow but also heard other sports were involved so we wouldn't be hit alone. I never understood though why the other sports were left unharmed and only the names of cyclists were revealed."
McQuaid firmly believes cycling is busy regaining credibility. "In the nineties young athletes died of EPO. We introduced the hematocrit values to protect the riders. We were also the only sports federation to embrace the biological passport.”
“I would also like to see an independent anti-doping institution do the testing instead of the federations but under current WADA regulations this is impossible. This would have to change for every sport, not only cycling."