Kimmage: Landis allegations will decide the sport’s future

UCI President Pat McQuaid

UCI President Pat McQuaid (Image credit: Gregor Brown)

Irish journalist Paul Kimmage has described Floyd Landis’s allegations of widespread doping at the US Postal team as an issue that “that will decide the future of the sport”. Speaking on Irish radio sports programme Off the Ball, Kimmage said of Landis’s allegations as “He’s not saying, ‘I doped to win the Tour de France.’ Or at least he’s not just saying that. He’s pointing his finger pretty much everywhere. The picture he paints is pretty bleak to say the least.”

Kimmage added: “For me the most damaging element of it is the relationship between Armstrong and the governing body, and the allegation that Armstrong tested positive in 01 or 02 and went to the UCI, to UCI president Hein Verbruggen, and gave him some money to cover it up. That is the most devastating revelation of all because the relationship between Armstrong and the governing body is something that we’ve had reservations about.

 “It’s been no surprise that Pat McQuaid, the now president of the UCI has come out and rubbished it as he’s done in the time-honoured tradition of the UCI, depicting Landis as someone with a grudge, which is exactly what he said about me, and someone who’s got no love for the sport.”

Kimmage then suggested that Armstrong’s participation at this year’s Tour de France must now be in doubt. “The allegations are so grave that Armstrong is going to have trouble with this… I really cannot see him going to the Tour de France. My understanding is that there is now a federal investigation under way, and you don’t mess with those people. I think this could be the end of him, to be honest.”

Kimmage did offer praise for the UCI’s recent efforts in fighting doping, but argued they must look more closely at Armstrong’s past performances. “As much as they’ve tried to clean up the sport over the last three years, I’ve always been particularly uncomfortable with the way they’ve treated Armstrong. I don’t know of any other sport where an athlete would say, ‘Here’s a few quid, now look after that.’ They needed to take one further step and that was to investigate Lance Armstrong’s performances since 1998 and they have never done that.”

Asked what he hoped what happen now given that Landis has already said that he cannot prove a lot of what he is saying, Kimmage responded: “How it moves forward now is that Floyd has named a number of witnesses to what he saw. What needs to happen now is for those people to corroborate what Landis has said. That will take a lot of courage and I don’t know if there is that much courage out there in terms of tackling Lance Armstrong.

“If you look at US Postal and look at the number of riders who tested positive after they left that team… What Landis is saying is not coming in isolation… We need people to stand up and be counted and say, ‘Yes, I was there, what Landis says is true.’

“It brings into question Armstrong’s attitude with regard to dopers. I had a go at Armstrong at California a year ago and I mentioned Floyd Landis to him and how pleased that he seemed to be that the sport was allowing cheats like Landis and Ivan Basso back in with open arms. Armstrong’s attitude to dopers has always been a very curious thing to me. While some people might want to believe him, when you examine how he has treated some people who have stood up about doping, then you’ve got to wonder, ‘This doesn’t stand up. This is not normal.’”

UCI president Pat McQuaid had been listening to Kimmage’s comments and was then given the chance to respond. “Let me say it was the UCI who caught Floyd Landis,” he pointed out straight off, adding: “I’m going to tell you something now because I’ve never said this before publicly. I did something that was very unorthodox. Four days after his positive test, I picked up the phone and I called Floyd Landis and spoke to him about it. I said to him, ‘Floyd, please, come clean, do not go into the usual train of denial, denial, denial.’ He refused to listen to that.

“The UCI, WADA, the USADA spent a lot of money prosecuting Floyd Landis and all the time he was living a lie. Now he comes out with this statement and we’re supposed to act accordingly.”

Asked what he thought Landis’s agenda might be, the UCI president said: “I don’t know what his agenda is. To go back to the allegation that Paul Kimmage pointed up as the most important allegation that Lance Armstrong paid the UCI to cover up a positive doping test. That is absolutely, completely untrue.”

After pointing out that Armstrong did not ride the 2002 Tour of Switzerland, as had been suggested, McQuaid responded to the alleged cover-up of a positive test by saying: “The results of any tests that came out of the Tour of Switzerland in 2001 would have been sent to the international ruling body, which is the UCI, and the International Olympic Committee, so the IOC would have been aware of any positive tests on the Tour of Switzerland in 2001. There’s no way the UCI could have covered up something like that. It’s a complete fabrication.”

He did acknowledge that the UCI had received money from Armstrong. “The UCI received $100,000 from Lance Armstrong in 2005, four years after this incident was supposed to have taken place.” McQuaid then explained: “The UCI would accept donations from anyone who’s prepared to give. We’re a non-profit-making organisation so we’re prepared to accept money from anyone who’s prepared to assist us in developing the sport.”

He also insisted that the UCI will take action if an USADA investigation into Landis’s allegations suggested other riders had cheated. “If they can come up with enough proof from these allegations against any of the riders involved, the UCI will support them 100 per cent in going forwards with that process. But even Floyd Landis has said that he has no proof to back up the statements he’s made.

McQuaid concluded by saying: “Floyd should have met with USADA directly and I was involved in trying to get him to do that. But instead he’s gone to the media. I know one thing that could be playing a role in this. He wanted to ride the Tour of California, but the organisers wouldn’t take him into the race. He tried to blackmail the organisers of the Tour of California and if they didn’t take him in he was going to come loose with a big story, and this is exactly what he’s done.”

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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).