/ Cycling

USADA chief Travis Tygart pledges to continue doping fight

Updated: Monday, 22 Oct 2012 16:51 | Comments

Travis Tygart, chief executive of USADA insists the fight against doping isn't over yet
Travis Tygart, chief executive of USADA insists the fight against doping isn't over yet

Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles but the sport's world governing body has been warned the battle against doping is far from won.

The UCI accepted the findings of a United States Anti-Doping Agency investigation which concluded Armstrong and his United States Postal Service team ran "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen".

USADA stripped the 41-year-old American of all results from 1 August, 1998, including his record run of Tour triumphs from 1999 to 2005, and issued him with a life ban in August, sanctions the UCI ratified today.

USADA chief executive Travis Tygart welcomed the decision of the UCI, but called for the world governing body to break free from the past by challenging the code of silence within the peloton which allowed doping to flourish.

Tygart said: "For cycling to truly move forward and for the world to know what went on in cycling, it is essential that an independent and meaningful Truth and Reconciliation Commission be established so that the sport can fully unshackle itself from the past.

"There are many more details of doping that are hidden ... the 'omerta' has not yet been fully broken" -Travis Tygert

"Sanctioning Lance Armstrong and the riders who came forward truthfully should not be seen as penance for an era of pervasive doping.

"There must be more action to combat the system that took over the sport.

"It is important to remember that while today is an historic day for clean sport, it does not mean clean sport is guaranteed for tomorrow.

"Only an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission can fully start cycling on the path toward true reform and provide hope for a complete break from the past."

Briton David Millar, who describes himself as an "ex-doper" but is now on the World Anti-Doping Agency's athletes' commission, reiterated his call for the UCI to be held to account.

Millar has previously demanded the resignation of Hein Verbruggen, the UCI's honorary president who was president when Armstrong won his seven Tours. Pressure has also been mounting on incumbent Pat McQuaid.

"They (the UCI) always denied there was a problem and even now they are denying they had knowledge of it, and I think that's the next big step," Millar told Sky Sports News.

"The buck has to stop somewhere and I think the UCI have to assume that responsibility."

On the decision to sanction Armstrong, Millar added: "It is late but I'm so pleased it's happened.

"We've been aware of what's been happening and we've been powerless on each of our levels but I think to have this happen has empowered all of us."

Millar pointed to the rule governing a 50 per cent hematocrit level as an acknowledgement that use of the blood-boosting agent EPO was prevalent in the peloton. However, there was at that time no test for EPO.

McQuaid, who insisted he was not considering his position, was steadfast in his belief that cycling has a positive future, but he admitted it was nigh-on impossible to rid the sport of drug abuse.

At a media conference in Geneva, McQuaid said: "Will it ever be free from doping? That's a very difficult question to answer.

"I'd probably, to be honest with you, would say no, because I don't think in any aspect of society there are no cheats.

"I do believe that doping can be hugely reduced. A lot of it is in education programmes, how the teams are structured and what support elements the teams give the riders, to ensure when they go into a danger zone and feel like taking something that they decide not to.

"The UCI always had a commitment to the fight against doping and a commitment to try and protect clean riders and to try and get cheats out of our sport.

"And if I have to apologise now on behalf of the UCI what I will say is I am sorry that we couldn't catch every damn one of them red-handed and throw them out of the sport."

Armstrong's defence long relied on his claim to never having tested positive. He was tested 218 times by the UCI, which insisted the responsibility for not catching the Texan sooner should be shared with other anti-doping agencies who also tested Armstrong.

McQuaid insisted the revelations contained within the USADA report came only when witnesses were faced with the prospect of perjury charges.

The testimony of 11 former team-mates of Armstrong was key and they received six-month bans, which were also ratified by the UCI.

A special meeting of the UCI's management committee will take place on Friday to discuss the "exact sporting consequences" of the decision, including whether the titles and prize money will be redistributed.

The International Olympic Committee will await Friday's UCI meeting and further information before a decision is made on the bronze medal Armstrong won in Sydney in 2000.

Armstrong refused to co-operate with USADA, who earlier this month published their 1000-page report.

In accordance with the World Anti-doping Code, the UCI had 21 days to respond, until October 31.

Rather than taking the case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the UCI accepted the findings of USADA.

Armstrong or WADA could yet take the case to CAS.

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