UCI cites anti-doping regime gaps
The Tour de France will have no official winner for the seven races from 1999 to 2005 if Lance Armstrong is stripped of his victories by the International Cycling Union.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Tour director Christian Prudhomme called the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's report on Armstrong "damning." It raises doubts, he said, about "a system and an era."
Tour officials are still waiting on the UCI's decision on whether to go along with USADA's decision to ban Armstrong for life and erase his racing results. A spokesman for the sport's governing body, Enrico Carpani, said it was "too early to say" what would happen. The UCI must decide by the end of the month whether to appeal USADA's ruling.
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UCI president Pat McQuaid declined to comment on USADA's report but defended his organization's efforts to catch drug cheats.
The report cost Armstrong's former team manager, Johan Bruyneel, his job as general manager of RadioShack Nissan Trek. The team said Friday the decision was taken by "mutual agreement" and that Bruyneel "can no longer direct the team in an efficient and comfortable way."
The Belgian has his own legal battle with USADA and has opted for arbitration to fight charges that he led doping programs for Armstrong's teams.
If Armstrong's Tour victories are not awarded to other riders, that would leave a gaping seven-year black hole in Tour de France record books. It would also mark a shift in how Tour organizers treated similar cases in the past.
When Alberto Contador was stripped of his 2010 Tour victory for a doping violation, organizers held a ceremony to award the race winner's yellow jersey to Luxembourg's Andy Schleck. In 2006, Oscar Pereiro was awarded the victory and a place in the record books after the doping disqualification of American rider Floyd Landis.
Prudhomme wouldn't address the differences in approach.
McQuaid said inadequacies in the anti-doping system were failing to catch drug-using athletes. The UCI tests athletes repeatedly for doping, he said, but the federation can do little if the results are negative. He insisted the anti-doping system had improved since the 1998-2009 period of Armstrong's career examined in the report.
For Frankie Andreu, the report offered relief. A former Armstrong teammate, he had previously admitted doping.
"We're kind of getting to the end of this, where we can have some closure on this," Andreu said. "There's more riders, more people out there, talking about what happened in the past."
On Thursday, World Anti-Doping Agency director-general David Howman said Armstrong pursued what appears to be a systematic doping program for a decade, "probably with the knowledge" of people who were charged with detecting drug cheats.
Howman told New Zealand's LiveSport Radio on Friday that Armstrong's repeated claim he never has tested positive for a banned substance no longer could be regarded as proof of his innocence.
"What seems to have happened in this particular scenario is that it went on for many years under the noses of those who were supposed to be detecting it and at times probably with their knowledge," Howman told the New Zealand program from WADA's headquarters in Montreal.
Howman said Armstrong finally had been caught because fellow cyclists had broken a code of omerta (silence) and confessed their parts in a "conspiracy to defraud the sport."
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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