Allegations of preferential treatment for Armstrong

ARTICLE SUMMARY:

  • There was no corruption, no concealment of positive samples, no violation of the rules, no violation of the World Anti-Doping Code … It started to look really bad for the CIRC!
  • So instead, the CIRC has latched onto a hotch-potch of vague opinions provided by “various sources” to accuse the UCI leadership of giving preferential treatment to Lance Armstrong. I totally reject this accusation. When examined completely and properly, all of these so-called “allegations” turn out to be totally baseless.
  • In any of the issues considered by the CIRC, the treatment of Armstrong was justified by the circumstances that prevailed at the time and was no different from how any other rider would have been treated under the same circumstances.

 

FULL ARTICLE:

On page 182 -197 the CIRC examines allegations from “several sources, notably UCI staff and former UCI staff” that the UCI leadership had on several occasions “defended” or “protected” Lance Armstrong, or taken favourable positions towards Armstrong indicating that he had received preferential treatment. Among the explanations given to the CIRC was the UCI’s promotion of a “celebrity rider” after the Festina scandal. The idea was to shine a spotlight on the sport through its best athletes, like the “people’s heroes” such as Armstrong. The Vrijman report was one example of this policy, the CIRC claims.

This section of the CIRC report is another example of typical CIRC methodology.

According to the CIRC itself, there is basically nothing wrong:

  • “Lance Armstrong was of course entitled to the benefit of the fundamental principle of the presumption of innocence” (page 192)
  • “it is true that he was subject to extensive testing” (page 192)
  • “UCI did not prevent Lance Armstrong from being tested on numerous occasions” (page 197)

In addition, according to the CIRC, there was no corruption, no concealment of positive samples, no violation of the rules, no violation of the World Anti-Doping Code.

Yet, as has become abundantly clear, there was a basic requirement to find something – anything – negative to justify the very existence of the CIRC.

As a result, this accusation of “preferential treatment” is noted as coming from some “sources” and there they have it: Bingo! Any argument that could possibly be squeezed into this frame is traced, listed and turned into “proof” that the UCI had a well-considered policy of preferential treatment.

That these arguments are false or futile, as will be shown below, is apparently not a problem for the CIRC.

Lance Armstrong was a celebrity rider and a ‘people’s hero’ indeed. But I don’t think it was the UCI leadership that made him that.

It also took some time before Armstrong gained that status. It is too easy now to look back to the year 1999, for example, with the knowledge of the status that Armstrong had gained in 2003 when he had won the Tour de France five times, equalling Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault and Indurain. In 1999, however, Armstrong was not the star that he was in 2003, or 2001, although all winners of the Tour de France were always accorded high status in cycling.

Lance Armstrong achieved many things, both in sport and in his private life. Today, finally, we know for certain that he doped until his first retirement from the sport in 2005. I realize how risky it is for me to say this now, but every neutral observer will accept that doping was not the only ingredient of Armstrong’s successes and that he also had the physical and mental strength of a high-level athlete. These are qualities that were admired by many, as was the mental strength with which he won his battle against cancer.

If Armstrong became a star it was because the public – at least a certain part of the public, as there were also many who didn’t like Armstrong – liked and admired him, not only for his sports achievements. I don’t have to dwell on the attention that Armstrong received in the media around the world.   The CIRC gives examples of how important it was for politicians to appear in a photo with Armstrong, or to have lunch or join him on a ride. It was not the UCI that arranged for all these things to happen.

The CIRC depicts the alleged examples of “preferential treatment” of Armstrong against a background of “doping suspicions”. I will deal with these “doping suspicions” first and then turn to the issues of alleged preferential treatment.

 

The doping suspicions

On page 192, the CIRC lists nine “doping suspicions” that were”sufficient to justify a policy of target testing of Lance Armstrong by all competent agencies”.

Not without some hesitation, I would suggest that this is equally a criticism of WADA, USADA and AFLD too, as they all had testing authority over Lance Armstrong, especially for out-of-competition testing. As I have showed elsewhere, WADA tested Armstrong just three times (!) throughout his entire career. If only WADA had tested Armstrong every time that WADA, or Dick Pound, voiced their suspicions about Armstrong! I wonder, in fact, why they didn’t. The CIRC, of course, doesn’t consider this.

The CIRC believes that, for the same reasons, the UCI “should also have maintained a certain distance from, and been circumspect in its relations with the athlete”. Of course, with what we all know today, it is hard to disagree with that. However, it should be taken into account that out of the nine “doping suspicions” only three occurred before Armstrong retired from cycling in 2005.

That Armstrong had worked with Dr Ferrari was known about, but it was no indication that Armstrong was doping.

As I have said before, I was not aware of the suspect results for EPO of June 2001 and June 2002.

There was also the book, L.A. Confidentiel, written by Pierre Ballester and David Walsh and the statements made by Emma O’Reilly – but also the denials from Armstrong. And I must admit that I did not have much sympathy for (or confidence in) people that wrote sensational stories about the UCI being complicit, but who didn’t bother to check their facts, or to provide UCI with any evidence.

The CIRC also ignores the judgment of the Queen’s Bench Division of 17 December 2004 that decided in favour of Lance Armstrong in his litigation against the Sunday Times regarding Ballester’s and Walsh’s book that the CIRC refers to.

Likewise, the CIRC ignores the fact that, in 2006, following arbitration proceedings in a litigation between Lance Armstrong and SCA, an insurance company that refused to pay a bonus for his Tour de France victories, SCA agreed to Armstrong’s claim. Apparently, SCA invoked all of the possible allegations of doping that had been voiced against Armstrong, including, if I remember correctly, the allegations made by Emma O’Reilly.

The CIRC also ignores the fact that, in May and June 2006, WADA sent the UCI three boxes of material coming out of the SCA-Armstrong arbitration. The material included sworn depositions, evidence and exhibits. WADA asked the UCI to examine the material and to consider any action against Armstrong.

The material was examined by the UCI legal department, which found no evidence of an anti-doping rule violation having been committed by Lance Armstrong. WADA was informed of this conclusion.

WADA did not react to the conclusion reached by the UCI’s legal department. I don’t know whether WADA examined the material itself, or asked USADA to do so. Either WADA and/or USADA didn’t examine the material, or they did and came to the same conclusion as the UCI. Otherwise, we would have known and the CIRC would have jumped on that. As the CIRC does not mention anything in this respect, there is no reason to doubt that the UCI’s conclusion from the SCA file was the correct one.

In any case, it is definitely not true that, as the CIRC writes on page 197, the UCI did not look into the allegations against Armstrong. The UCI did examine the SCA file forwarded by WADA and that must have contained every possible allegation against Armstrong.

Likewise, the UCI asked Emile Vrijman to investigate the 1999 Tour de France samples (see the section on the Vrijman report). In 2010, the UCI asked USADA and a number of national federations to look into the allegations made by Floyd Landis against Armstrong and other members of the US Postal team.

So the CIRC’s conclusion appears to be that, notwithstanding the legal decisions in favour of Armstrong, notwithstanding the conclusions of the Vrijman report, notwithstanding the conclusion from the SCA file, notwithstanding the absence of any contestation of these conclusions by WADA and USADA, and notwithstanding the presumption of innocence, the UCI shoud have steered clear from the most famous rider as someone who was possibly doping. That this could be seen as a violation of the presumption of innocence and also a form of “preferential treatment” of any other riders who were ever the subject of doping allegations is not worthy of consideration by the CIRC.

The other “doping suspicions” listed by the CIRC date from after Armstrong first retired from cycling in July 2005 and so post-dating my presidency.

The only “favours” that the CIRC reproaches the UCI for during that period are the (miniscule) reduction of Armstrong’s wait prior to his come back in 2009 and the claim by the UCI that it had jurisdiction for results management in the case of USADA against Armstrong. These happened under the presidency of Pat McQuaid. However, I will give my view on both of them below.

 

The Vrijman report

I refer to my comments in my article “Vrijman report” where it is clearly shown that Armstrong was not protected. By considering the Vrijman report to be “preferential treatment”, the CIRC once again is blindly following the WADA line.

The Vrijman report did not give preferential treatment to Lance Armstrong. Nobody, including the CIRC, contests the conclusion of the Vrijman report (a conclusion that was in fact “dictated” to Vrijman by Professor De Ceaurriz and Dr. Lasne of the Paris laboratory on 9 December 2005) that the findings of the laboratory were not valid proof of doping.

What the Vrijman report exposed, on the other hand, were the violations of athletes’ rights by WADA. But these violations did not just concern Lance Armstrong, but all of the riders whose samples had been used for scientific purposes without their consent and without their samples having been made anonymous.   In fact, these sorts of violations concern all athletes around the world. They were strongly condemned by the IOC Athletics Commission and by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, and also, be it indirectly, by Dick Marty in his additional opinion on pages 189-191 of the CIRC report.

But the CIRC seems to be under some sort of edict not to mention, let alone investigate, violations that might have been committed by WADA.

Dick Marty has had the courage to point out the obvious fact that, in the whole story investigated in the Vrijman report, Lance Armstrong had been targeted. This does not excuse Armstrong’s wrongdoings, but nor is it an excuse for turning a blind eye to the serious failures on the part of WADA which claims the authority to monitor compliance with rules by other bodies – and which might therefore be expected to comply with the rules itself.

Indeed, the UCI suggested to Vrijman that he look into this and also investigate the mechanism that caused the leak to L’Equipe which targeted Armstrong.   But Vrijman did not come to any conclusions on these issues: he came no further than asking a series of questions that required further investigation; an investigation that WADA has always dodged.

The violations that WADA was found to have committed and the questions that remained unanswered concern all athletes around the world! They are far more important than just the Lance Armstrong case.

By reducing the Vrijman report to “a protection of Lance Armstrong”, the CIRC is in fact protecting the taboo about questioning WADA’s wrongdoings in this affair.  The focus on the so-called “protection of Armstrong” is in fact protecting WADA.   And protecting WADA is something the CIRC does not hesitate to do throughout its report.

 

The 1999 corticosteroid case

Regarding the CIRC’s second argument about “preferential treatment”, I would also refer to the article on this website ‘Medical Prescriptions/The 1999 Lance Armstrong corticosteroids case’, where I comment about this case extensively.

This case was judged on its merits and not because of who Lance Armstrong was then. There were no favours or preferential treatment.

Besides, at that time Lance Armstrong was taking part in his first Tour de France and was not yet the hero or star that he later became. I don’t know when exactly the Anti-Doping Commission of the UCI came to the conclusion that there was no doping. It might have been when Lance Armstrong was not in the yellow jersey, or it might as well be when he was wearing the yellow jersey. It might even have been at a moment that it was not yet likely that Armstrong would win his first Tour.

Of course, it would not have been good for the sport if the yellow jersey had to be disqualified, but this was not the reason behind the decision of the UCI’s Anti-Doping Commission. This is ‘hineininterpretierung’.

And those who will continue to believe that the decision was made in order to save the yellow jersey in what they call the “Tour of Renewal” have to accept that the exact same decision would have been taken had that jersey been worn by another rider and that it had nothing to do with the wearer being Lance Armstrong.

Just one month before that, the UCI had taken Marco Pantani out of the 1999 Giro when he was completely certain to win it (barring an accident). Pantani at that time was a much bigger star than Armstrong in the 1999 Tour. The UCI also disqualified both Floyd Landis and Alberto Contador from their respective Tour de France titles after they were caught with a UCI test.

The CIRC also says – which seems to be its decisive argument – that Armstrong himself considered the UCI’s intervention a favour. I am not impressed. I suppose that Armstrong made that statement to the CIRC and, of course, the CIRC did not ask me for my views about it. As with many others, the CIRC seems to give credit to an Armstrong statement only if it is useful to be used against me. Armstrong did not mention this “favour” during his interview with Oprah Winfrey in January 2013 and he added that there had been no deals with the UCI. Later on, he falsely accused me in relation to the corticosteroid affair, desperately in need of some information that might prompt USADA to reduce his current life-ban.

 

The defence of the EPO test

Next up in the array of “arguments” for the alleged preferential treatment of Lance Armstrong is the request by Lon Schattenberg to Martial Saugy to demonstrate to Armstrong the reliability of the EPO test after he had contested the suspicious analysis results at the 2001 Tour de Suisse.

Let me state first that I was not aware of these suspicious results until 2010, when the UCI carried out some research following statements about Lance Armstrong made by Floyd Landis. The same applies to the alleged suspicious result at the 2002 Dauphiné Libéré.

This shows that the anti-doping services worked independently within the UCI and that I was only involved when I was informed and consulted about an issue.

In July 2001, the anti-doping laboratory of Lausanne informed the UCI that two samples taken from Lance Armstrong during the 2001 Tour de Suisse were suspicious in relation to EPO.

In 2012, the UCI published an extensive note about this and I refer to this note which I supplied to the CIRC, but which it of course ignored. Likewise, the CIRC asked me no questions about this issue, nor did they question Lon Schattenberg, something the CIRC could have done (in writing).

As an example of preferential treatment the CIRC reproves the UCI for the fact that Lon Schattenberg asked Martial Saugy, the head of the Lausanne lab, to explain the reliability of the new EPO test. The reason for Schattenberg’s request was that Lance Armstrong had contested the reliability of the EPO test. When in July 2001 Armstrong was confronted with his suspicious results of the Tour de Suisse, Armstrong claimed that he did not take EPO and therefore, if the test found his sample suspicious for EPO, the test was wrong.

As explained in the UCI’s 2012 note, the EPO test had only been introduced in April 2001. It was brand new and there had been no validation yet by either the IOC or by WADA.

But what Schattenberg wanted to do was to have the Lausanne laboratory, that had analysed the samples and reported the suspicion, explain to Armstrong that the test was indeed reliable. Schattenberg wanted to defend the test and found it important that a leading rider would not question it but would be convinced of the robustness of the test and support it. One might now say that Lon Schattenberg was naive in apparently having difficulty believing that Armstrong was doping because of his history as a cancer patient and that he was concerned for the reliability of the test, but I have no doubt whatsoever that his intentions were good.

However, Schattenberg’s concerns about the reliability of the new EPO test should not surprise the CIRC. On page 118-119 the CIRC writes:

In 2000 such a [EPO] test had been developed by the French laboratory. Shortly after the analysis technique was developed it was introduced by the UCI (April 2001) at a stage when the test had not yet been validated by the WADA. The test at that time was cumbersome (“technician-dependent and time consuming”), expensive and not very robust. The lack of robustness posed a problem from a legal point of view, which is evidenced, inter alia, by the “Olga Yegerova,” and “Bo Hamburger” cases. Nevertheless, the UCI was one of the first sports organisations to implement the test (and the first Summer Olympic IF) and in doing so took a certain degree of legal risk in pursuing EPO cases.

In line with the biased overtone of its report, the CIRC twists the long-awaited introduction of an EPO test which was welcomed as a revolution by the anti-doping community into a negative consideration: the uncertainties of the new test are highlighted rather than the pioneering role of the UCI in introducing this test. In the same biased vein, any credit to the UCI for introducing the EPO test had to be minimized – and the two more years that it took for WADA to validate the test had to be excused (without even looking into the reasons for such a singularly long delay).

But some 70 pages further down, the uncertainties of the new EPO test are apparently no longer relevant in the context of Schattenberg’s request to Saugy to convince Armstrong about the reliability of the test. Any understanding concerning this request had to be avoided, as it would not fit with the “preferential treatment” frame the CIRC was trying to create.

More sloppiness in the CIRC report: Schattenberg actually made the request to Saugy to meet Armstrong in July 2001 and not on 4 July 2002 as the CIRC incorrectly writes on page 164. 4 July 2002 is the day of the actual meeting.

And I fail to see why it is considered “preferential treatment” to take steps to convince a rider who has questioned a doping test result of the reliability of that test.

The CIRC says that no request was made to a laboratory to “explain” the EPO test to other riders. Well, in the first place, no other riders contested the EPO test to the UCI. Hamburger and Meier were found positive by the lab and the UCI opened disciplinary proceedings against them. Hamburger and Meier contested the EPO test after they were caught and did so in front of the hearing bodies of their national federations and then before CAS. At the CAS hearings, the test was explained and defended by Martial Saugy and Prof De Ceaurriz in detail. For CAS it was completely obvious that athletes should have the right to know how a test works so that they can exercise their rights of defense and can be convinced that the test is reliable. On this subject, Saugy said in an interview with Neue Zürcher Zeitung on 27 May 2011 (translated from German): “During the hearing in the Hamburger case the judge of the Court of Arbitration for Sports stated that it is not acceptable that a doping test should be a black box for the athlete.   Athletes have a right to know how the tests work that are conducted upon them. Given the uncertainty at that time, this was normal. I also did it because I was firmly convinced of the EPO-test and wanted to rebut the criticism.”

Second, Martial Saugy was not asked to explain the test, but rather to show the reliability of the test which is a significant difference.

On page 164, the CIRC writes that Martial Saugy was asked to “defend the EPO detection method” and this is correct. Therefore it is quite biased for the CIRC to write, on page 193, that Martial Saugy was asked to “explain the EPO test method” to Armstrong instead of targeting him. Rather than being another example of sloppy analysis, this rather appears to be an intentional twist to fit with the CIRC’s “preferential treatment” theme. And when the accusation on page 193 is “preferential treatment”, it would only have been fair to recall what the CIRC writes on page 165, that is that no information was provided by Martial Saugy to Armstrong that would have allowed him to circumvent the EPO test.

Personally, I find it a terrible accusation that the head of an anti-doping laboratory might have explained to an athlete how to circumvent an anti-doping test. Yet such accusation was publicly made by Travis Tygart. It must be this accusation that the CIRC is referring at when it mentions the “Martial Saugy case” on page 144. The CIRC indeed refers in footnote 257 to an interview by Travis Tygart, head of USADA, that was published on 10 January 2013. In it, Tygart says the following (which is not quoted by the CIRC):

“He [Saugy] sat beside me and said there are samples from Lance Armstrong that indicated EPO use. He also told us that he had been instructed by the UCI to meet Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel to explain the EPO testing process,” Tygart said.

“I asked him: ‘Did you give Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel the keys to beating the EPO test?’ And he nodded his head yes. He explained it to the two of them. As far as I know, it’s unprecedented. It’s totally inappropriate to bring in an athlete with a suspicious test and explain to them how the EPO test works.”

Martial Saugy of course has denied this. This time, the CIRC also gives voice to the other side, be it not very explicitly: . it provides (in footnote 257) links to articles on the press conference where Saugy denies Tygart’s accusation and is quoted to have said about the meeting with Armstrong: « I have absolutely no regret. I would repeat it« ,referring to the right of athletes to be informed about false positive results of EPO tests.

The malice of the accusations made against Saugy by Tygart in January 2013 also results from the fact that in USADA’s Reasoned Decison he boasts that he had unearthed the most sophisticated doping system in history. It is clear from the Reasoned Decision that Dr Ferrari knew immediately how to circumvent the EPO test that was introduced in April 2001 and certainly Armstrong could have learned no more about the EPO test one year later in July 2002.

It is course good that at least the CIRC confirmed that it was not true that Martial Saugy gave Armstrong the keys to beating the EPO test.

But anyway, the explanations given by Saugy to Armstrong at the request of the UCI was not preferential treatment for Armstrong, but a defense of the EPO test. So the question is: why does the CIRC bring it up as a preferential treatment? I think by now we all know the answer to that question.

 

Armstrong’s return to competition in 2009

The CIRC writes, on page 194, that the UCI made an exception to its anti-doping rules to allow Armstrong to return to competition at the Tour Down Under in January 2009 before he was “legally” entitled to participate in an international event.

This took place during the presidency of Pat McQuaid and therefore I will give only a few thoughts on the issue.

Again, I refer to the note that the UCI sent to the National Federations on the subject.

I note that Armstrong was the first rider ever to be subject to the rule which imposed a six months wait before returning to competition and to have asked for a small reduction. Eventually that reduction was not applied as such, but the rule was changed to allow a return after a rider had given his whereabouts and was available for out-of-competition testing for a period of four months. That new rule was to apply to all riders, of course, and not only to Lance Armstrong.

For me, and I would think for any neutral observer (but apparently not for the CIRC) this was an advisable improvement, as it is not the length of the wait that is important, but rather the testing during that wait period.

WADA had no problem with this and there was no violation of the World Anti-Doping Code.

Even WADA President John Fahey warmly welcomed Armstrong’s comeback from retirement at the Tour Down Under, in particular for the enormous boost to cancer charity donations that it prompted (AFP, 24 February 2009). Given WADA’s stance against Armstrong over many years, this was certainly exceptionally favourable treatment of Lance Armstrong by John Fahey!

 

UCI’s claim of jurisdiction for results management in the Armstrong case

The CIRC refers to this on pages 195-196. I note that the CIRC does not present this issue as a favour made by the UCI to Armstrong, but rather as an example of how Armstrong sought the assistance of the UCI.

I was involved in this because, at the time, I had a discussion with Philippe Verbiest who informed me that Armstrong’s lawyers claimed that Armstrong, as a UCI license holder, was entitled to invoke the rules giving jurisdiction to the UCI for results management and also that Armstrong would sue UCI for damages if he was denied that right.

My opinion, and I told this to Verbiest, was that UCI should stay out and leave the case in the hands of USADA. But that was not legal advice, of course.

Apparently, the UCI took into account Armstrong’s threats, but proposed on the other hand that the decision on results management (this is the question of whether Armstrong had a case to answer or not) would not be taken by UCI but by a third independent body to be appointed by UCI and USADA.

The correspondence between UCI and USADA on this has been published by USADA.

USADA has always presented this as an attempt to prevent Armstrong from being pursued – and of course the CIRC parrots this opinion on page 144. That is sheer nonsense. A decision on results management implying that no action will be taken against an athlete can be appealed to CAS. So supposing that this independent body had judged that the evidence against Armstrong (which at that moment was not known to UCI, as USADA had refused to divulge anything to the UCI) was so slight that it could not justify the initiation of disciplinary proceedings, both WADA and USADA could have appealed that decision to CAS. If CAS then ruled that Armstrong had a case to answer, the matter would have been referred to US Cycling and USADA for a hearing before the American Arbitration Association (AAA).

In the meantime, Armstrong had taken USADA to court in Texas. That court ruled that Armstrong had to submit his objections against USADA’s claim of jurisdiction to the AAA arbitration panel, something Armstrong declined to do.   This solved the issue of jurisdiction for results management for the UCI.

I also want to point out the bias of CIRC when it writes that the UCI attempted to prevent Armstrong from being pursued: the CIRC fails to point out that this would have been impossible in view of the WADA and USADA’s right of appeal to CAS. The CIRC also fails to mention that the UCI had proposed to appoint an independent body to take the decison on results management. By concealing these two facts, the CIRC prevents any non-informed reader from seeing the non-existence of the intention that the CIRC falsely imputes to the UCI.

 

The icon Armstrong

The CIRC also points out that Lance Armstrong was considered as an icon by the UCI. Yes, Armstrong was indeed an icon. That is a matter of fact and not proof of preferential treatment, or somehow the result of a particular perception of the UCI.

During the “Armstrong” years, cycling had a number of other icons: Laurent Jalabert, Jan Ullrich, Andrei Tchmil, Frank Vandenbroucke, Richard Virenque, Erik Zabel, Paolo Bettini, Johan Museeuw, Michele Bartoli… I could go on.

In the traditional cycling countries, these riders were much more popular than Armstrong. This applies in particular for Virenque, who remained an icon in France despite his suspension for doping.

In the same period (1999-2005), Armstrong featured only once in the top three of cycling’s world ranking.

On page 197, the CIRC quotes “a former UCI employee” as follows: “to defend the image of the sport, they defended the champions”. As usual the CIRC does not explain, let alone check what is meant by this. I fail to see when and how the UCI had defended any of the champions listed above. In fact the UCI went after three of them (Ullrich, Vandenbroucke and Museeuw), in proceedings that the CIRC conveniently ignores.

But the point I want to make is that the CIRC’s source refers to “champions” (plural). Yet the conclusion that the CIRC draws from this statement is that “There was a tacit exchange of favours between the UCI leadership and Lance Armstrong and they presented a common front”. So a statement that is made about an indefinite number of champions is twisted into a preferential treatment of the sole Lance Armstrong. Il faut le faire

 

The support by Armstrong

It is correct that the UCI sought Armstrong’s support on a number of occasions. But I don’t consider it to be abnormal for a sport to seek the support of its stars when it comes to promoting, supporting or defending the sport.

I don’t consider it as abnormal either that when the sport and its athletes are attacked that the leading athletes are asked to join the international federation to defend the sport.   An athlete is always free to decline.

And I fail to see why an IF should be considered to confer preferential treatment on an athlete, if the athete is asked for his/her support for the IF.

Likewise, in my view, when an athlete has survived cancer and is an icon for thousands of cancer patients, if then another cancer patient, in particular a child, asks the UCI whether it could arrange for a small sign of encouragement (a cap or an autographed photo) from their hero Lance Armstrong and the UCI passes the request to Armstrong or rather his manager, that is not a sign of preferential treatment either.

In fact I feel ashamed for the CIRC when it makes an issue of the UCI asking Armstrong for a photo for a child with cancer, but ignores the major violations of athletes’ rights and other practices by WADA.

 

Armstrong seeking the assistance of the UCI

The CIRC states on page 195 that on several occasions Armstrong sought the assistance of UCI and made use of his “privileged relationship with UCI leadership to his own advantage”. It is not clear what this “privileged relationship” is.

According to the CIRC, the first issue is that, in 2003, Armstrong warned UCI of synthetic heamoglobin being used in the peloton. (I don’t know anything about 2009, when according to the CIRC Armstrong apparently gave another warning).

Was the UCI supposed to do nothing because that rider was Lance Armstrong? Should the UCI have ignored this warning because otherwise it would be accused of having responded to a request for assistance and of having accepted to have been used under a “privileged relationship”?

Should the UCI perhaps have suggested to Armstrong that he pass the message via one of his colleagues, so that the UCI could follow up the warning without running the risk of being accused of favouritism?

Yet it is curious that the CIRC does not mention the answer that Mario Zorzoli sent to Lance Armstrong. This answer, at least, is not considered as a preferential treatment! Phew!

The very source that the CIRC relies on when it states that Armstrong felt threatened because of the “incredible performances” of “several” riders, also declared that UCI’s warning to the riders for these drugs had the effect that those who two weeks previously had been performing very well at the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, produced normal performances at the Tour de France.

So, according to that source, the UCI’s reaction had a beneficial effect in that there was less doping, but that is of course of of no importance compared with the “terrible” fact that this benefical effect resulted from the “privileged relationship” between UCI and Armstrong.

And of course the CIRC has to add that it was not able to corroborate the benificial effect reported by its otherwise reliable source. Corroboration apparently is necessary for any facts that risk being to my credit or that of the UCI, but is not needed for anything that can possibly be held against me or the UCI.

 

Affidavits

It is correct that Armstrong’s lawyers asked the UCI for an affidavit in the cases of Armstrong against The Times newspaper and against the insurance company SCA.

It is completely false, however, that “the UCI worked with the rider’s lawyers to respond to accusations of doping”.

The CIRC fails, of course, to give any details about what the UCI provided to Armstrong’s cases. This prevents readers of the report from assessing whether it was a defense against accusations. In fact it was not.

The affidavits in the SCA case were three identical affidavits by Lon Schattenberg, Mario Zorzoli and Christian Varin explaining the regime of anti-doping tests at the Tour de France, the number of riders tested, how riders are notified, the responsibilities for results management, the analysis by the Paris lab. The only issues that concerned Lance Armstrong were the number of tests in the 2004 Tour de France, the fact that all his test results (at the 2004 Tour and before) were negative and that Armstrong had not shown atypical blood values.

These affidavits were mere statements of facts that were confirmed to be true. These statements were not a defence of Lance Armstrong.  To my knowledge, the UCI had not received or seen any document or note from the case file, in particular it saw no document containing the claim or charges against Armstrong.

In these affidavits, the UCI explained its anti-doping actions at the Tour de France. One could see this, as indeed the CIRC does, as a defense of the UCI’s anti-doping policy. But I fail to see what is wrong with that. If the CIRC had studied the affidavits themselves, it would have concluded that it is absurd to qualify them as a preferential treatment of Lance Armstrong.

In addition, Travis Tygart, then senior managing director of USADA, provided an affidavit at the request of Lance Armstrong in the SCA case.  That affidavit is of course not mentioned by the CIRC.

(In fact, it would be interesting to know how USADA associated with Armstrong during this period. I am told that Armstrong featured prominently on USADA’s website at the time. The CIRC could have checked, although presumably if they would have found it to be the case, they would not have mentioned it.)

The same question could also be asked about WADA. If the following things had involved the UCI rather than WADA, the CIRC would certainly have qualified them as preferential treatment:

  • In his answer to the public letter of Armstrong in Le Monde, Dick Pound underlined in his answer (WADA website, 6 March 2006) that he had nothing against Armstrong in particular;
  • In attachment 53 to the Vrijman report there is a cordial correspondence between “Dick” and “Lance”;
  • WADA tested Armstrong only three times in the period between 2004 and 2010. Just three times in nine years!;
  • Former WADA medical director Alain Garnier stated that discussions within WADA on Lance Armstrong took place in camera and that these were the only discussions that had ever taken place in camera (rfi.fr, 8 November 2012); WADA contested this (of course!);
  • WADA did not conduct its own investigation into Lance Armstrong after the Vrijman report;
  • WADA never found that Armstrong should be accused of encouraging his teammates to dope because he told them, as Landis and Hamilton claimed, a false story about a cover-up: in this way, WADA could avoid stating that the story of the cover-up was false and consequently, that there was no cover-up (or otherwise that the story about the story was false, as Armstrong says).  It was me who had to be accused, not Armstrong.

These elements suggest in fact that, for WADA, Lance Armstrong was not an athlete that had to be persecuted in the first place but instead he was someone who had to remain a useful instrument to bash the UCI and to harry me.

In the case of Lance Armstrong against the Sunday Times, Armstrong’s lawyers asked for an affidavit from Lon Schattenberg. To my knowledge this affidavit was not provided by Lon Schattenberg. Lon Schattenberg did however provide a half-page fax in which he confirmed that Armstrong had never asked the UCI for an autorisation to use prohibited substances and that he never had an abnormal T/E ratio and that the allegations to the contrary in “L.A. Confidential” by Messrs Ballester and Walsh were wrong.

On the other hand, the following documents were provided to Armstrong’s lawyers: UCI’s anti-doping rules, the UCI prohibited list, the French prohibited list, the medical certificates produced by Lance Armstrong at the 1999 Tour de France, a list of the doping tests on Lance Armstrong at the 1999 Tour de France and the letter by Philippe Verbiest that is distortingly quoted by the CIRC on page 172 (see also the article “Medical prescriptions/The 1999 Lance Armstrong corticosteroid case” on this website).

Once again, only factual information was given, no defense. So the question is: why does the CIRC consider this to be preferential treatment? One has to wonder if they even bothered to study all the files.

In this case, the UCI was also asked by the lawyers for the Sunday Times to provide a statement concerning the copies of the doping control forms of Lance Armstrong published by L’Equipe on 23 August 2005. The UCI delivered that statement to the Sunday Times lawyers. This is ignored by the CIRC.

Once again, the facts show a different picture than the summary and unsubtantiated statements by the CIRC.

If a rider (and also his or her opponent, as in the case of the Sunday Times) asks for an affidavit on matters of fact that the UCI can attest to, why should the UCI refuse? Why, if the UCI delivers the affidavit, should this be considered as a favour or a preferential treatment?

I cannot recall whether other affidavits have been requested by other riders, but if they had, I cannot imagine that the UCI would have refused to provide them.

What I do recall however, and the CIRC must certainly have seen this in the files, is that the UCI helped numerous riders when they had problems with their team, or with an organizer, especially in the case of unpaid wages. There have been bank guarantee cases that required far more resources than the affidavits provided for Lance Armstrong.

Did these riders receive favours? Did these riders receive preferential treatment? No. Not more and not less than Lance Armstrong. They asked for help and, if the UCI found the request justified and could help, the UCI helped.

I also refer to the cases of Gonzalo de Galdeano and Caille Williams, two riders who were falsely accused of doping and who were defended by the UCI because the UCI correctly concluded that they had not doped (see the article “Vrijman report”).

 

Conclusion

I would have thought that the concept of “preferential treatment” would imply an unjustified exceptional treatment by comparison to a normal treatment.  Also, if a rider finds himself in a particular situation that has not happened to other riders and receives a specific but justified treatment for that situation, I would not call this a “preferential treatment”.

The identification of “preferential treatment” would also require the examination of the relationships between UCI and riders in general, the attitude of riders to the UCI (indifferent, assertive, hostile…) that determines whether they make contact with the UCI or not, the cases in which riders asked the UCI for help, or cases of the UCI asking riders for a service (for example the public signing of the “Riders’ commitment to a new cycling”) etc.

The CIRC did not bother to examine the interaction between UCI and the riders, nor the cases in which riders made an appeal to the UCI, or vice versa.  Rather than coming to conclusions based upon proper analysis of the entire reality of the relationships between UCI and the riders, the CIRC was just focusing on incidents concerning Lance Armstrong that could be spun into “preferential treatment”, to underpin what was apparently the perception of certain interviewees.

Finally, one can see that the CIRC, failing any grounds to do so, does not suggest that Armstrong was granted a more favourable regime than any other rider regarding anti-doping. In fact, the CIRC indicates a different motive which is completely unrelated to doping: “The idea was to shine a spotlight on the sport through its best athletes, like the “people’s heroes” such as Lance Armstrong” (page 182). It is rather ridiculous, but it is clear in that it has nothing to do with doping. And the CIRC quotes Armstrong as just one of the heroes, but it does not dwell on the other heroes… All this is not a very serious analysis.

So why write an entire chapter on “preferential treatment” if the treatment of Armstrong or the so-called privileged relationship “did not confer to him an advantage over other riders in anti-doping”? Having failed to find any concealed test results, any corruption, any bribery, any prevention of being tested, the CIRC need to search for negative framing using other elements.

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