Opinion: UCI must act on Armstrong case

Peter Cossins, writing for Cycling News HD (opens in new tab), calls on the UCI to act in the best interests of cycling when it responds to Lance Armstrong’s USADA ban

When it was announced that Lance Armstrong and his legal team had 72 hours to decide whether or not they would agree to allow independent arbiters to rule on the Texan’s alleged use of prohibited products, I half-expected them to step away from the process while at the same time throwing mud in several directions.

Always the master tactician, Armstrong seemed to realise that refusing to have anything to do with any legal process was, as the Guardian’s Matt Seaton wrote, “his least worst option”. For now at least, the American can stick to his guns, yelling “witch-hunt” whenever necessary and uttering the mantra that he never tested positive – although you don’t have to search too hard on Google to be reminded that he did.
Having effectively tried to gag USADA during the recent proceedings, the UCI finds itself in an extremely delicate position now that USADA has come out and banned Armstrong, retrospectively since 1998, and thus stripped him of his seven Tour titles.

It could go to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to get a judgement on who has jurisdiction in these matters. However, above all, the UCI must be seen to be doing the right thing for the sport as a whole, rather than protecting its own sphere of influence. WADA director-general David Howman suggested two weeks ago in a letter to McQuaid that the UCI needs to be backing anti-doping legislation. But in order to do so the organisation will have to move away from its own “least worst position”, whereby it has done all it can to hamper rather than help.
Armstrong may have circled the wagons, but this is no time for the UCI to do the same. The UCI must act – quickly and justly.

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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).