Vayer defends reaching out to Lance Armstrong
Frenchman met with McQuaid, called UCI president "incompetent"
Antoine Vayer has labelled Pat McQuaid incompetent, said that the UCI's Independent Commission was a waste of nearly 5 million Euros and that Lance Armstrong should be heard by a truth and reconciliation commission. The French physiologist, who trained the Festina team of the 1990s, is part of the Change Cycling Now movement and has become an advocate for clean sport in recent years.
On Wednesday Lance Armstrong gave an exclusive interview to Cyclingnews in which he called for Truth and Reconciliation with the sport, with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to chair the commission. At the same time Vayer reached out to Armstrong in an email, asking to meet with the former rider. The move angered members of the Change Cycling Now group, with Michael Ashenden immediately stepping down.
"I'm a free man and I've contacted Lance, that's true. But it's Antoine Vayer who has contacted Lance Armstrong not Change Cycling Now. I contacted him for the same reason you've contacted me, to ask questions," Vayer told Cyclingnews.
"I just asked Armstrong for a rendezvous. You can do that. He agreed. I will meet him soon. I proposed that he comes to Paris but it's more natural in the US."
As for Ashenden's resignation from CCN, Vayer said: "My colleague is free, I'm free, he's free. I think we have the same goal. I think it's important to talk to Armstrong. I was the trainer of the Festina team and I remember before Armstrong went to Cofidis, we spoke about him joining the team.
"At met some riders who were like sons to me and I worked really hard with. For example Pascal Herve. He had the same spirit of winning that Armstrong had. I have trained more than 400 riders, I still do. I think I can help, I really can help. It may be contrary to some people but I'm not angry with Lance. That's why it's important to have a conversation with Lance. He's only a rider, he's only a man. That's all.
"Maybe people will be angry with this because they all have different ways of wanting to do things but I think we all agree on the main goal. The goal is to change the mentality, to sack McQuaid and Verbruggen and to have truth and reconciliation commission."
Vayer's movements haven't been restricted to contacting Armstrong. Last week he turned up in Lausanne, Switzerland for an interview with UCI President Pat McQuaid.
" I had two and half hours with McQuaid last week in Lausanne. I asked if he doped as a rider. He said no, because he rode at a low level and that it wasn't necessary. We didn't talk about Lance Armstrong. It's good to speak to people though, isn't it? Six years ago I asked McQuaid for an interview and he refused. Six years later I had the same demand and I wanted to talk about doping. It was a long conversation and we talked about whether he was the best expert to fight against doping.
"I asked him why he was surrounded by incompetent people but he told me that he and the UCI weren't just about anti-doping and he pointed to one example, that he's created 20 races in Africa where there were four. He's happy with that. But me, I focus on the structure of doping.
"We had two beers, which I must thank him for because the beers were expensive. Not as expensive as the commission they wanted to set up. Do you know how much that cost? Nearly 5 million Euro. That's half of the UCI reserve and for nothing. But he still had money to pay for two beers which is good. He still forgot his credit card from the table when he left, though.
"I told him that he was incompetent. That's the word. Maybe he has qualities in creating 20 races in Africa but he's not competent for being the president of the UCI or for sacking, for five million euro, a commission he created with great people."
When contacted about the cost of the Independent Commission, 5 million Euros, the UCI did not dispute the figure but indicated that it was the projected budget of the entire process.
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Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.