Cycling Australia sacked former Olympian Matt White Wednesday for his role in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, while ruling out any amnesty for athletes who owned up to using drugs.
The sport’s governing body in Australia held a board meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss the dossier of evidence by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and admitted it was “incredibly damaging for cycling worldwide”.
“The evidence presented is damning, the behaviour of the key players is morally reprehensible and cycling fans have every right to feel let down,” it said in a statement.
USADA accuses Armstrong of being at the heart of the biggest doping conspiracy in sports history when he won seven straight Tour de France titles.
Armstrong has denied any wrongdoing.
White, 38, admitted at the weekend that he was part of a strategy of doping when he rode on the Armstrong-led US Postal Service cycling team from 2001 to 2003.
He said he was stepping down from his jobs as the sports director of the emerging Australian professional team Orica-GreenEDGE and his role in Cycling Australia’s men’s road racing programme.
Cycling Australia said he had made a valuable contribution, but it was left with no choice but to dismiss him, with his admissions “clearly plac(ing) him in breach of the CA Anti-Doping Policy and Code of Conduct”.
“Accordingly, the board has determined that his ongoing employment with CA is untenable and Matt was formally advised overnight of the termination of his contract.”
In a statement, White said it was crucial that there be a “positive outcome from the current debate about cycling’s past and I feel a responsibility to be part of that – even if it won’t be in an official Cycling Australia role”.
White is currently facing an investigation by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA), which said this week it became aware of allegations of doping made against him by American cyclist Floyd Landis in 2010.
But the anti-doping agency said that due to the federal investigation in the United States and the subsequent USADA probe, ASADA was unable to obtain information to pursue a thorough examination of the allegations until now.
White was hired by Cycling Australia in 2011 and the governing body said a review of how it appoints staff would begin immediately, including seeking advice on questioning potential employees about performance enhancement.
The board also ruled out any doping amnesty, which had been flagged as a possibility by the head of Cycling Australia Klaus Mueller just days ago.
Though it supported the criminalisation of doping the board said an amnesty would be inconsistent with CA’s “strong anti-doping position”, and Mueller later said he had been “wrong to float it” as an idea.
The CA chief said they had never directly questioned White on whether he had taken drugs despite his name being linked to drugs at the time he was hired because his accuser, Landis, “had been highly discredited” by that stage.
“We assumed, as we do with our other employees, that unless we’ve got evidence to the contrary there’s a simple assumption of innocence in relation to that,” Mueller told reporters.
Ultimately he said Australian officials had “little say or control over what happens over in Europe” during competition and though he hoped there would be no other Australian cyclists implicated in the scandal “we can never be certain”.
The CA board blasted cycling’s governing body, the UCI, for not doing enough to stamp out performance-enhancing drugs.
“We acknowledge that there is now clear evidence that the UCI, until recent times, failed to fully and properly do its part to stamp out doping,” said the CA board.
“How the UCI responds to the USADA file and how it addresses the allegations within it will be critical to the reputation of the organisation and that of the sport of cycling.”