Former UCI president calls Armstrong "a victim"
People might expect that former UCI president Pat McQuaid would shy away from cycling - after a heated and unsuccessful campaign battle with Brian Cookson, after being attacked over his handling of the Lance Armstrong doping case, after being accused of covering up doping and after being called any manner of names - but the Irishman is not one to be ashamed. On the contrary, he was at the Tour de France on the first rest day in Bensaçon, shaking hands and addressing some of the media's questions about the recently uncovered biological passport ban of Russian Denis Menchov.
The initiation of the anti-doping violation proceedings against Menchov actually began under McQuaid's watch, when, in early 2013, he says, the committee approached him stating that they had suspicions about Menchov.
"I can only give the information that I know," McQuaid said of the case. "In April of last year I was approached by anti-doping to tell me they had suspicions of the parameters of Menchov and they were going to open a process. ... I said go ahead and do it. And so they did. It then started a process with lawyers and all that. It now comes to an end in the last week or two."
McQuaid said he was not surprised with the way the current UCI administration handled the announcement, or lack thereof, of the suspension of the Russian, but refused to comment on whether he agreed the hush-hush nature had anything to do with the fact that the Katusha team owner, Igor Makarov, backed Cookson in the election for UCI president.
"It's within the rules to do it like that," he said of the lack of a public announcement of Menchov's ban by the UCI. "What we would do is put out a press release at the end of the [anti-doping] process. This surely has been the end of the Menchov process."
Authorities cannot, for legal reasons, comment on doping cases until they are concluded, and McQuaid points to the online document listing all current doping cases on the UCI's website that contains a short summary of Menchov's case, as evidence the process has been concluded.
Current president Cookson stated this week that the lack of an announcement was normal. "The only tine we've commented on doping cases that have been completed or in progress, is when a rider or his team, national Federation or others have commented," Cookson said.
McQuaid disagreed with his successor. "I don't think you can do that. you have to be up front. When your system is working and working well, which it is, you need to be able to state that and get the credibility of the public and the sports public as well behind you. You need to make statements when you catch a big guy, and Menchov is a big guy."
McQuaid dismissed arguments that, because the disqualification of Menchov's results from the 2009, 2010 and 2012 editions of the Tour de France were long overdue, and that he had already benefited from his results monetarily, the biological passport system is slow and ineffective.
"Even though values are from two or three years ago, they are compared with today's values. Eventually something might cause a reason for the experts to look at your passport and examine it, and you'll end up in the process," he said, adding that riders being properly caught and punished is an effective deterrent, even if it takes time.
"For me, a positive doping case like the Menchov case or any other case is a good sign. It's a sign that there's another one bites the dust, another one out of the sport. I've always said that in the eight years I was president. We catch guys, we get them out, that's good for the sport.
"There's less doping going on in cycling, I believe, than there ever has been in the history of cycling."
The new guard and the old
McQuaid showed sympathy for Cookson's position, having come under fire throughout his own tenure as president. He defended the continuing presence of Mario Zorzoli as the UCI's chief medical advisor, while at the same time claiming much of the credit for the sport's current turn away from the previous doping culture.
About Zorzoli, who Tyler Hamilton said warned him of his suspicious blood values, he said, "A lot of experience has been gained in 20 years. He hasn't been responsible for all the doping that happened over the years, no more than I was responsible and no more than Hein Verbruggen was responsible for it. The fact is the culture was there. I set about tackling that culture and I think I did tackle it, quite successfully.
"When I look at the peloton today, I can look back with a lot of gratitude on what I've achieved in the eight years I was president."
Regarding politics and the criticism Cookson has been facing: "It's easy to be an expert, and it's easy to be correct when you're outside the loop looking in. But when you're in there, and you have to face up to do the work, you do the best that you can. and that's what I always did. I leave it to the new regime to do what they have to."
About a reported denial of there being any proceedings against Menchov when asked the question in 2013: "I don't remember being asked the question, number one, and it depends on when the question was asked, number two. It also might be that the person that was asked the question gave the answer no, because they would continue to say no until the process was finished."
On the press "jumping to conclusions". "You have to give due process the correct respect, and let due process take place. I can now say that, as an individual, you guys [the press] have been very quick to jump to conclusions - for instance when the famous list was leaked a couple of years ago, (you were saying) the 9's and 10s ... they are all dopers. The media are quick to jump to conclusions and sometimes ruin a guy's reputation. When due process takes place, it might not necessarily be the case."
"The point is, that list was a snapshot of time. It was a guide that was being used for testing. It wasn't showing that the 10's were the most possible dopers. It was taken from the statistics to give testers guidance on who they should be testing. that's all it was for."
On Lance Armstrong, Cookson
McQuaid said he has not had contact with Lance Armstrong since the USADA ban, but has changed his mind somewhat on his comments that "Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling".
About the comment: "That was an emotional press conference. At the time, on behalf of cycling, I said that. I don't necessarily think quite the same now."
"He is a victim. Travis Tygart set out on a witch hunt with Dick Pound behind him."
"I do think that it was very much a one man show, USADA went after him. They made a lot of statements about their job being to protect clean athletes, the actual statistics don't show that they protect clean athletes. The number of times they tested Lance Armstrong, that WADA tested Lance Armstrong was minimal during his whole career."
"He's a victim of a USADA witch hunt. There were many others involved in doping. The fact that USADA say it was the most sophisticated doping system in the history of sport, that's their words, I wouldn't necessarily agree with that. Doping had gone on in cycling equally as sophisticated as that, the Festina affair was equally as sophisticated before Lance came along."
About Cookson's new administration seizing the computers within moments of the declaration of the presidential election results: "I got all my files and computer back."
And, about the job the current administration has done so far: "All I can say is I haven't seen much of the change that's supposed to be coming. A lot of it has been PR statements. There's been no change, no new decisions taken."
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