By Gerard Knapp in Aigle, Switzerland
The president of the International Cycling Union, Pat McQuaid, has confirmed the UCI's chief medical officer, Dr Mario Zorzoli, as the source of the 15 documents that provided evidence for French sports newspaper L'Equipe to allege Lance Armstrong used EPO in the 1999 Tour de France. McQuaid said to Cyclingnews on Wednesday, March 1, when asked if Dr Zorzoli was the source of the documents, "he was, yes, unfortunately". Subsequently, Dr Zorzoli has stood aside from his position while an independent investigation continues.
Last August L'Equipe claimed that research being conducted by the anti-doping laboratory at Chatenay-Malabry had shown that urine samples from the 1999 Tour had indicated EPO use. The documentation of these urine samples included code numbers designating the rider who supplied them. By obtaining doping control forms from the UCI that matched the code numbers to an athlete's name - as the research was said to have been done without the knowledge of the riders' identities - L'Equipe claimed it could prove six of the samples came from the American Tour winner.
"We were always under the impression it was only one form," McQuaid said. "There is this confusion as to what happened when he [L'Equipe journalist Damien Ressiot - ed.] was here, but he must have given the guy the 15 copies," he said. McQuaid claims that Ressiot convinced the doctor that the aim of his article was to support Armstrong's claims that "he had been competing without the use of agents that were used for his cancer treatment. So, obviously, he gave him the information."
Previously, the UCI said it had showed the French journalist just one doping control form after Ressiot had requested access to the documentation, claiming he was trying to show that since returning to racing, Armstrong had never taken any medicine in relation with possible consequences of the cancer he had overcome.
However, in a meeting between WADA chairman Dick Pound and UCI vice-president Hein Verbruggen at the Winter Olympics in Torino, Pound informed Verbruggen that WADA had obtained copies of all 15 doping control forms signed by Lance Armstrong during the 1999 Tour de France and that those copies originated from the UCI.
When asked how WADA's chief had come into possession of these same forms, McQuaid said with a wry grin, "that's a very good question. It would seem that he [Pound] has his own sources, too."
McQuaid said it would not have been possible for Dr Zorzoli to realise the connection between the signed control forms from the 1999 TdF, and the research results of the laboratory. The tests were being done for research only, and "he wasn't aware of the results of those tests".
"The guy [Ressiot] was supposedly writing a particular story about (Armstrong) riding clean, so we knew the grounds on which he came here [to UCI headquarters]. It wasn't just us," McQuaid continued, "but it was also Lance Armstrong and his people who helped him."
McQuaid said the investigation into this affair by Dutch lawyer Emile Vrijman, the former director of the National Anti Doping Agency in The Netherlands (NeCeDo), and his law firm Lamsma Veldstra & Lobé attorneys, is continuing, but he could not say when his findings would be presented to the UCI.
June 27, 2006 - Carmichael defends Armstrong, Armstrong answers L'Equipe & LeMond
June 26, 2006 - LeMond: "Armstrong threatened my life"
June 19, 2006 - Armstrong calls for Pound's exit
June 18, 2006 - Lance Armstrong's open letter against Dick Pound
June 4, 2006 - UCI hits back at WADA
June 3, 2006 - WADA slams the Vrijman report
June 2, 2006 - L'Equipe stands by its story, UCI supports Vrijman's findings
June 1, 2006 - UCI, WADA and Armstrong react to Vrijman's report
May 31, 2006 - UCI lawyer asks for Armstrong's name to be cleared
May 14, 2006 - Two more weeks for Armstrong investigation