UCI President Pat McQuaid has hit back at Lance Armstrong's latest comments and insisted that he deserves to be re-elected for a further term, despite the long series of doping scandals in professional cycling.
McQuaid was a special guest at the start of the Tour de France in Corsica on Saturday. A few years ago he was persona non grata at the Tour but a peace deal brokered with ASO owner Madame Amaury helped improve the relationships between the UCI and the race organisers.
McQuaid is on the campaign trail as he looks to be re-elected as UCI President in September, with his rival Brian Cookson also spotted in the Tour Depart village after having dinner with Garmin Sharp team manager Jonathan Vaughters.
McQuaid was dragged back into the headlines by Lance Armstrong's interview with the Le Monde newspaper on Friday. The disgraced Texan said that McQuaid and former UCI President Hein Verbruggen were afraid of supporting a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to overcome the doping of the past two decades because "the testimony that everyone would want to hear would bring McQuaid, Hein Verbruggen and the whole institution down," Armstrong said.
McQuaid tried to brush off Armstrong's suggestion.
“I'm not worried by what Armstrong says. If he has anything to say, he should say it. We don't have to have a Truth & Reconciliation process to give information," McQuaid told Cyclingnews.
"Lance only thinks of himself and he only thinks of his own interests. We were never actually that close. I knew him and we spoke on the phone sometimes but I haven't spoken to him for 18 months or so. He fooled me, he fooled everybody. I feel angry about that and did what he did."
"Of course, we know that Lance wasn't alone and perhaps he was a victim of the system. The recent Dutch report said that 95% of Dutch riders were using doping products because the system couldn't catch them. At the time they could get away with it. I'm angry that the UCI is blamed for that. It wasn't the UCI wasn't doing its job, the system just wasn't good enough to catch people using these products. Now the Biological Passport is a good method to catch people and is also a good deterrent."
McQuaid refused to accept that the UCI was complacent.
"I don't think we were complacent. We always fought doping and do as much testing as we could afford to do. We spend seven million Swiss francs a year on anti-doping. You don't do that unless you want to catch people. We chase people."
Swiss nomination for president
Irish Cycling embarrassingly refused to endorse McQuaid as a candidate for the presidential election, forcing him to pursue support from the Swiss federation because he is resident in Switzerland as part of his role of acting UCI president.
He insisted he is not worried about any challenges to the legality of his nomination.
"My nomination is legal. I think the deadline is today for nominations. The dispute will go on after that but I'm not concerned," he said.
"I have an honoury licence from Ireland. You are only allowed one licence but I don't have a licence with Switzerland, I'm a member of Swiss cycling and you can be a member of a number of federations."
McQuaid refuted any suggestion that he should step aside, claiming he has unfinished work to do in the fight against doping.
"I don't think there's need for change at this point," he argued.
"I'm trying to change a culture. That takes time. The evidence is there that it's changing and I'd like to see that out and then after that, I'd happily walk away and let someone else take over."
"I stand on what I've done in the past eight years for the good of the sport. Nobody has brought in stronger measures against doping than I have. Everyone says there's been a change in the culture in the sport and I brought in that culture by pushing with the teams. I fought very hard against the teams. I brought in the Biological Passport, the no needles policy and this year the Corticoids steroid rule."
McQuaid insisted he is not worried about Brian Cookson's rival candidacy, confident that he has secured enough votes from international delegates to ensure re-election in September.
"I'm not worried about Brian's candidacy," he said.
"He's got a lot of resources behind him and that makes it slick but the Federations of the world know what I've done for them, the work I've done for them over the years. I'd hope they stand by me. We will see in Florence in September."