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Pat McQuaid admits he 'made mistakes' amid claims of UCI collusion with Lance Armstrong

USADA chief Travis Tygart says he is ready to assist in pursuing prosecution of former cycling chiefs.

Pat McQuaid is the former President of the UCI.
Pat McQuaid is the former President of the UCI.
Image: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Updated at 11.36

PAT MCQUAID HAS admitted he “made mistakes” as head of UCI amid suggestions that the organisation helped cover up the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

McQuaid defended himself in an interview with RTÉ’s Morning Ireland following the release of a US Anti-Doping Agency USADA report last night urging prosecution of ex-UCI chiefs.

He told the station: “I made mistakes…. I can’t tell you what they were,” but added: “I never gave any riders any particular favours.”

McQuaid maintained that Armstrong was tested “over 200 times” without testing positive, arguing: “Every police authority in the world know who’s committing the crimes but until they get evidence against them they can’t catch them.”

McQuaid said that the report completely clears him of “any corruption, wrongdoing or complicity in the doping,” adding that “from 2006, 2007 onwards, things improved” in cycling.

However, he went on to acknowledge that there were “lots of decisions I took as UCI President that, looking back, I would have done differently”.

Meanwhile, USADA chief Travis Tygart says he is ready to assist in pursuing prosecution of former cycling chiefs accused in a new report of shielding Lance Armstrong from doping charges.

The report issued on Monday in Europe by the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC), gave a damning assessment of efforts by the International Cycling Union (UCI) under past presidents Hein Verbruggen and McQuaid to protect Armstrong.

The American cyclist defeated cancer to win the Tour de France seven straight times from 1999-2005 but was stripped of the titles in 2012 and banned from the sport for life.

The fallen US hero, 43, now admits to taking banned performance-enhancing drugs.

“A stunning example of deceit found by the CIRC is that the UCI, under the explicit direction of Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid, commissioned a supposedly ‘independent’ investigation of Armstrong’s positive samples from the Tour de France,” Tygart said.

“According to the CIRC, the UCI then conspired to allow what was sold to the public as an ‘independent’ report to be re-written by Armstrong’s own lawyer and sports agent in order to conceal Armstrong’s doping.

“USADA will work with the current UCI leadership to obtain the evidence of this sordid incident to ensure that all anti-doping rule violations related to this conduct are fully investigated and prosecuted, where possible,” said Tygart, who guided the investigation that finally brought Armstrong down after he had weathered doping accusations for years.

Tygart noted that the report found that the UCI under McQuaid tried to “derail” USADA’s case against Armstrong in 2012.

“Here again, McQuaid’s actions were intended to prevent the truth about Armstrong’s doping and the UCI’s complicity in it from being exposed,” Tygart said.

The CIRC, led by Dick Marty, a Swiss politician and former state prosecutor, was set up following allegations that Armstrong made cash donations to the UCI in a bid to cover up doping failures.

Tygart praised current UCI president Brian Cookson, who ousted McQuaid in 2013, for publishing the report uncensored.

He applauded Cookson for making sure electronic data and the UCI computer servers were secured, so that evidence of the UCI’s past dealings on doping was preserved.

Tygart also backed the UCI’s move to put the sport’s drug-testing in the hands of an independent agency.

“The clear message of the CIRC report is what we have always said –- sport cannot effectively both promote and police itself, without the support of independent anti-doping organisations,” he said.

The commission highlighted lapses in cycling’s general anti-drug regime including drug testers sometimes leaking information about who would be the target of tests.

One expert told the commission that up to 90 percent of the race peloton was still doping. Others gave lower estimates.

It said there were “serious allegations” that riders from one unnamed country paid what was called an “anti-doping tax” to avoid tests. The commission said the the accusations were received late in its mandate so had been passed to the UCI for further investigation.

“The significant risk for cycling is that the number of doping scandals and damage to the sport’s reputation will cause both existing sponsors to leave the sport and deter new sponsors,” said the report, highlighting the exit of Rabobank, a Dutch bank, in 2012.

The Sunday Times’ Chief Sports Writer, David Walsh, a long-term critic of cycling’s culture of doping, said in reaction to the report on Morning Ireland that the sport “doesn’t come out of it looking very well”.

“The most interesting conclusion is that the two previous UCI Presidents basically looked the other way in relation to Lance Armstrong’s doping,” Walsh said.

“[It clears them of corruption] if you take the commissioner’s definition of corruption. There’s always been allegations that Lance Armstrong gave bribes to the UCI and the report says that that contribution money couldn’t be considered a bribe. It was Armstrong making contributions — it was just bad judgement to accept the money, which is what’s said in the report.

“But if the UCI were covering up for Lance Armstrong. at the very least, how is that not sporting corruption? In the financial sense, it’s not corruption, but it was corrupting sporting values. And that’s perfectly clear from the report.”

Armstrong’s attorney confirmed that he had “cooperated fully” with CIRC, while the disgraced cyclist issued a statement:

“I am grateful to CIRC for seeking the truth and allowing me to assist in that search. I am deeply sorry for many things I have done.

“However, it is my hope that revealing the truth will lead to a bright, dope-free future for the sport I love, and will allow all young riders emerging from small towns throughout the world in years to come to chase their dreams without having to face the lose-lose choices that so many of my friends, teammates and opponents faced. I hope that all riders who competed and doped can feel free to come forward and help the tonic of truth heal this great sport.”

Additional reporting by AFP

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Paul Fennessy

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