By Shane Stokes
Although he has stressed that Floyd Landis should be presumed innocent until such time as an analysis of his B sample proves his urine test was positive for excessive testosterone, UCI President Pat McQuaid has said that Thursday’s news is of huge concern to cycling.
The Irishman said he would be very annoyed if the 2006 Tour winner was shown to have doped and promised to take serious action to step up the fight against drug use in sport.
"Floyd Landis has to be regarded as innocent until such time as the B sample confirms the result. But if that analysis is positive I will be very, very angry," he told Cyclingnews, annoyance clear in his voice. "I find it hard to believe that guys nowadays would continue to try to beat the system when the system has been proved to be working well. I would also have thought after the start of this year’s Tour de France, with all the emphasis and the pressure on doping, that the riders would have ridden it clean."
The last time a final yellow jersey was disqualified from the race was in 1904 when defending champion Maurice Garin was stripped of his title when it was judged he had taken a train during the race, rather than completing the full route. McQuaid is under no illusions as to what the potential disqualification of Landis would mean. "It couldn’t be any more serious for cycling," he admitted. "It would be a disaster for the Tour and indeed for the sport as well. The situation is intolerable. We will have to do a complete audit on the sport in the days ahead to see where we go from here.
"We will have to take some very hard decisions over the coming weeks and months, getting to the bottom of this scourge and get it cleaned up. This is now going to become a personal crusade of mine, I am determined to tackle it - we have to get rid of anyone who is doping, for once and for all."
When asked if a tougher stance could include stronger sanctions against riders, McQuaid said that the UCI was bound in some ways by the rules which are in place. "We have to remain within the WADA code. As it is, within the ProTour we already do more than that [the standard sanctions]. But as I said, I think we are going to have to do a complete audit on what the situation is within cycling at the highest level. Then make some hard decisions based on that. There are various things going around in my head at the moment and in the coming days I will be making them concrete, then we will release a statement about it."
When asked as to the likely timescale for Landis’ B analysis to come back, McQuaid said it would take a few days. "We sent out a registered letter yesterday," he said. "They [the Phonak management] would have got it today and I think they have five days to respond to that, which brings us into next Monday or Tuesday. Tuesday is a bank holiday in Switzerland so it will be Wednesday when they need to respond to us by. Then you are looking at a situation where the rider may decide that they want experts to be there, so you have to find the experts in case they want to question anything. The availability of a lab is also a factor, so in theory it could be a week or even two weeks for the B sample to be confirmed."