USADA has done a masterful and impressive job with their “reasoned decision” on Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel and the US Postal doping conspiracy.
The only question remaining is, will the UCI, the governing body of the sport, do its job with anything approaching that level of professionalism?
For a number of reasons, Twisted Spoke doesn’t think UCI president Mad Pat McQuaid has any choice but to approve and confirm USADA’s report. They’ve backed themselves into a corner with no possible options.
First, the UCI is under intense scrutiny and criticism for its own role in failing to control the doping pollution of the entire sport during the time period of US Postal, Once and Telekom.
Second, there’s the disturbing allegations by Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis and now George Hincapie that the UCI covered up a doping positive by Armstrong in the 2001 Tour of Switzerland. As part of their investigation, USADA asked for those samples for retesting but the UCI refused to turn them over. No matter what the end result, this story casts another dark shadow on the integrity of the UCI.
Third, it’s already well-know that the UCI and McQuaid accepted over $100,000 from Armstrong and Bruyneel during a 2002 visit to UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland. Again, any attempt to disagree with the USADA conclusions will be seen as colossal conflict of interest and protectionism.
Fourth, we have the UCI’s impending court case against anti-doping crusader and journalist Paul Kimmage. The UCI’s decision to go after Kimmage is universally seen as ill-advised, vindictive and likely to backfire. The case will only highlight the failures of the UCI to fight doping in the sport. Against this backdrop, a disagreement with USADA over Armstrong’s fate will show the UCI has no desire to take its leadership role seriously.
Fifth, honorary UCI president Hein Verbruggen is fighting a firestorm of criticism that he presided over the darkest, most heavily doped period in cycling and went out of his way to protect Armstrong. He’s already prejudiced himself by insisting that Armstrong never, ever doped. He’s lost any credibility or right to rule on Big Tex.
Sixth, what’s the alternative? The UCI rejects the USADA findings and decides to take the case to the Court for Arbitration in Sports. McQuaid would find himself up against USADA, WADA and USA CYCLING who all support stripping Armstrong of his seven tour titles. If the UCI simply wants this embarrassing story to go away, putting the sport on trial for a six to twelve month court battle at CAS will only do further damage. That’s not something pro cycling can afford on any level.
In short, the UCI finds itself in the exact same position as Lance Armstrong. They’ve painted themselves into a corner with no escape exits. Yet, since they’re the “governing body,” they can’t simply deny and claim to be “unaffected.”
We suspect there will be lots of hemming and hawing from the UCI, quibbles about the USADA process, pointless legal nitpicks, face-saving hedges and self-important pronouncements but in the end, they cave.
USADA wins and the best case scenario for the UCI is to not make their own position exponentially worse. UCI will second USADA on Armstrong, case forever closed.