UCI president Pat McQuaid gave little away on the governing body’s response to the publication of USADA’s reasoned decision into the doping investigation when he spoke briefly with reporters at the Tour of Beijing on Friday.
The Irishman arrived in the Chinese capital in the early hours of Friday morning, and intimated that he would meet with the press after the finish of stage 4 in Changping, albeit simply to talk about the race.
It was a wish that even McQuaid must have realised was never likely to be respected. A 1,000-page dossier providing rigorous detail of the systematic doping practices of a seven-time Tour de France winner is surely of more urgent priority to the UCI president than the Tour of Beijing.
McQuaid did reply to questions on the Armstrong case, although he was he was reticent to provide any insight into the UCI’s response to the USADA report beyond confirming that the governing body had received the dossier.
“The UCI has received the USADA report. We have 21 days to consider it, to evaluate it. I have made it a priority within the legal department to get that done,” McQuaid said.
“Within that 21 days, we’ll come back with an analysis and some decisions. It would be wrong of me to pre-empt or second-guess what our lawyers are going to advise us about it, so that’s as much as I want to say about it.”
The 1,000-page USADA report includes testimony from 26 individuals as well as a slew of documentary evidence including financial statements and laboratory results that paints a damning picture of the doping culture fostered at Armstrong’s US Postal Service team.
Asked if he had himself read the report, McQuaid simply said: “I’m not saying any more about it than that.”
McQuaid repeated himself to interrupt a question on whether or not he was disappointed by Armstrong. “I’m not saying any more than that,” he said firmly. “The UCI will make its decision and read it in time. We’ve got 21 days to read and evaluate the full process, and when that’s done we’ll make a statement. Until then, I’m not saying anything.”
The questioning then turned to the thorny idea of a general amnesty for dopers, a notion McQuaid floated at the London Olympics but then retracted during a press conference at the world championships in Valkenburg last month.
“There’s nothing in the rules that allows that,” he said. “We work within the rules, within the WADA code, and that’s not allowed.”
And if the rules were to change?
“That’s a question for WADA,” he said.
McQuaid remains in China until after Saturday’s concluding stage of the Tour of Beijing.
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.