Cycling’s most famous drug cheat, Lance Armstrong praised an investigative report released last night by the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC).
“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,” Armstrong said.
“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, team-mates and opponents faced.”
The 43-year-old Texan was one of many former cyclists who spoke with the commission during its work over the past year.
Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times, but saw all those titles stripped in 2012 when a USADA investigation found he cheated. The investigation also highlighted incidents where cycling’s governing body, and its former presidents Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid, accepted money from Armstrong on behalf of the UCI and helped cover-up positive dope tests.
After winning the UCI presidential election in 2013, Brian Cookson created the CIRC to uncover such secrets and to make recommendations for the future.
The commission’s report found that the UCI helped Armstrong cover up his 1999 cortisone positive at the Tour de France with a back-dated medical certificate.
It said: “The former presidents actually initiated a special relationship with Lance Armstrong and failed to establish a more distant relationship, which would have been more prudent given his status as an athlete and because of the suspicions of doping that persisted.”
Armstrong donated $125,000 to the UCI in 2002, a time when he was winning the Tour and under scrutiny. In USADA’s case, his former team-mates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton claimed that Armstrong told them that the UCI helped cover up his EPO positive from the 2001 Tour of Switzerland.
The CIRC showed found that Armstrong received special treatment when he returned to cycling in 2009. The UCI allowed him back early, even though its rules stated that he had to be in the anti-doping testing pool six months prior. Though no direct connection was found, the commission noted that Armstrong immediately agreed to race in the Tour of Ireland, organised by McQuaid’s brother Darach.
“There are numerous examples that prove that Lance Armstrong benefited from a preferential status afforded by the UCI leadership. These favours were granted to him because he was considered the greatest cyclist and moreover the people’s hero as a cancer survivor,” read the report.
“As one source summarises, ‘The UCI chose business to be the priority for the sport. The primary concern was the commercial and international development of cycling and the arrival of Lance Armstrong was an extraordinary opportunity, a real success story, and the UCI closed its eyes to the rest.'”