Amid speculation that Lance Armstrong may implicate the International Cycling Union in helping to cover up his years of doping, International Olympic Committee member Richard "Dick" Pound has speculated that cycling's position in the Olympic programme could be at risk if this is shown to be the case.
"The IOC would have to deal with it, the [UCI] is not known for its strong actions to anti-doping," Pound said to Reuters.
The former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency has had a long history of conflict with the UCI's former president Hein Verbruggen and the Dutchman's replacement, Pat McQuaid. Pound was highly critical of the UCI's anti-doping efforts in light of the massive doping scandals that rocked the sport, from Festina to Operacion Puerto and more recently in relation to the USADA case against Armstrong.
Since then, McQuaid has joined Pound as an IOC member on equal footing. When asked by Cyclingnews in London last year if the Armstrong case could jeopardize cycling's place in the Games, McQuaid responded, "it's not going to have any effect on cycling. If guys are beating the system, they're beating WADA's system, they're beating the controls. The UCI can't do anything about that."
The cycling events in London were some of the most popular, best attended events of the 2012 Olympic Games.
However, the USADA reasoned decision has taken the UCI to task for its knowledge of the doping situation in the sport and its failure to act appropriately. Whether or not the upcoming interview with Armstrong will shed more light on the level of involvement of the UCI in any cover-up remains to be seen. However, Pound clearly believes that dropping cycling from the Olympics is the only way to pressure the sport to clean up.
"The only way it is going to clean up is if all these people say 'hey, we're no longer in the Olympics and that's where we want to be so let's earn our way back into it,'" Pound said to Reuters.
However, such drastic action would most certainly be more damaging to the categories of the sport who benefit the least from the UCI, namely women's road cycling and track cycling.
"It was the same in weightlifting a few years ago, all of a sudden when you get right up against it things go fuzzy and they say, 'well, we can't punish innocent athletes in these sports by dropping the sport from the program,'" Pound said.
The current IOC president Jacques Rogge has supported cycling through its rocky times, but his current term ends in September, 2013, and he is not eligible for another run. According to McQuaid, the IOC is due to vote one sport out of the Summer Olympic Games before the next edition in Rio de Janiero in 2016.