Travis Tygart: Time is running out

Updated: March 20, 2014, 12:15 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- Time is running out for cycling to confront its culture of doping and clean up the sport once and for all, the man who brought down Lance Armstrong said Thursday.

Citing evidence that doping remains prevalent in the sport, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said cycling must move urgently with the independent reform commission looking into the history of drug use and the governing body's alleged complicity with Armstrong.

"We all want to move on and turn the page," Tygart said. "But the job is not done. ... Time is of the essence. Another day can't go by until it's put in place in a proper fashion and the process starts."

Tygart said the sport has progressed under the new leadership of UCI President Brian Cookson, who ousted Pat McQuaid in September.

But he said the "honeymoon" will soon be over, putting Cookson and the UCI under pressure to carry through with their pledge to restore credibility to cycling's drug-riddled reputation.

"Just because you change the top, the dirty system doesn't necessarily change," Tygart said on the sidelines of the Tackling Doping in Sport conference at Wembley Stadium.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from elite sport for life by USADA after the agency detailed systematic doping by the American rider and his teams. After years of denials, Armstrong admitted to doping in a television interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Armstrong refused to cooperate with Tygart's investigation. He has said he would be willing to testify before the independent commission, but has also made clear he is seeking a reduction of his lifetime ban.

Tygart said Armstrong's appearance before the commission is not vital because most of the information about his doping has already come out. He said it would still be in Armstrong's personal interest to testify "from a reputational and rehabilitation standpoint."

There's also no need to hear from former UCI presidents McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen, he said.

"There's plenty of information outside of them showing up to testify that can be useful for putting a stake in the ground and moving forward," he said.

Tygart said the UCI under McQuaid failed to live up to promises made in November 2012 to deal with the Armstrong fallout. Since Cookson was elected, the UCI set up the Cycling Independent Reform Commission to look at the doping issues, including allegations the governing body had helped cover up Armstrong's cheating.

"Regime change is a successful outcome," Tygart said. "We're as hopeful as we've ever been with the new president. They have taken action in a relatively short period of time. We're working with them as best we can to finally get this thing where it needs to be."

Cycling will continue to be threatened by doping until the root of the problem is addressed by the commission, Tygart said. He said evidence gathered during the USADA probe shows that doctors, owners and others involved in doping will continue as long as they're not caught.

"Until the evidence is given a fair chance to come to light through this type of process, the threat of it is there," he said.

On a separate issue, Tygart expressed skepticism over Jamaica's promises to revamp its anti-doping program in wake of revelations of a complete lack of out-of-competition testing in the months before the London Olympics.

"I need to see it to believe it," Tygart said.

World Anti-Doping Agency director general David Howman said Wednesday that Jamaica's anti-doping body JADCO has done "exactly what we've asked" to get the program back in order. JADCO has new leadership and is being mentored by Canada's anti-doping body.

Tygart said he spoke with the Jamaicans in November and offered to send a USADA employee to the Caribbean island to assist their anti-doping program, but never heard back from them.

"I worry we're not going to see any progress," he said. "`I want it to happen, but proof is in the pudding and not talk."

Jamaica's lack of testing, Tygart said, has unfairly raised doubts about athletes like Usain Bolt, the world record holder and Olympic and world champion in the 100 and 200 meters.

"Those athletes ought to be able to stand up and say they're clean and held to high standards," he said. "I think those athletes are being let down by JADCO and Jamaican authorities."


Copyright 2014 by The Associated Press

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