Drug cheat Lance Armstrong’s doping programme bore testimony to the disgraced cycling champion’s win-at-all-costs attitude, the head of the International Cycling Union (UCI), Pat McQuaid, said on Monday.
“We’re looking at an enormous, sophisticated doping programme. It was win-at-all costs,” said the Irishman, who took over the UCI presidency shortly after the US rider’s seventh and final Tour de France win.
The UCI said it would not contest sanctions already handed down by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), stripping the cancer survivor of all of his results since August 1998 and earning him a ban for life.
Many of Armstrong’s former staff and team-mates testified against the Texan, and while McQuaid thanked them for speaking out, he said he was horrified to read the USADA report.
“I have to say and admit, as a (former) cyclist and coming from a cycling family, I was sickened by what I read in the USADA report,” he told a news conference in Geneva.
In particular, he said he was baffled that someone like Armstrong’s former team-mate David Zabriskie could be pressured into taking performance-enhancing drugs.
“The way he was coerced and forced into doping is just mind-boggling. I just found it hard to understand,” said McQuaid.
In an interview with AFP, McQuaid claimed the USADA dossier suggested that many of Armstrong’s former team-mates at US Postal had not set out to cheat.
“In fairness, when reading the affidavits you realise that most of the guys who were on that team, had no intention getting into doping,” said McQuaid.
“They were coerced into it and even one or two were forced into it.
But “they took that decision, and then they did it in a very covert way, trying to beat the system, at all times working to beat the system.
“I don’t think you can blame the authorities for what these guys were doing and I think it’s wrong for these guys to try and do that.
“The athletes of today don’t want to get into doping, and the structures that are being built around athletes by their professional teams now are much better than they were in those days.
“Structures of support, not structures of doping as they were in the USPS team.”
McQuaid said the UCI would now convene its management committee to discuss how to deal with issues, including the re-attribution of titles and prize money from races. But he hit out at those who had benefited financially from cheating.
“A lot of them (cyclists and teams) made a lot of money out of their cheating at the time,” he added.
“None of them has apologised to the UCI, to the sport, to the fans or to the stakeholders.
“None of them are offering that money back to the organisers. These guys have cheated and I feel sorry for the guys who raced clean. They must be sore now, and I empathise with these guys,” he added. “They have every right to be sore.”
Asked about the legacy of Armstrong, McQuaid said: “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling. He deserves to be forgotten in cycling.”