UCI hid Armstrong dope test, says new chief Cookson

Mon Mar 9, 2015 6:42am EDT
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PARIS (Reuters) - Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong would not have won seven Tour de France titles without receiving favorable treatment from the International Cycling Union (UCI), the current head of the world governing body said on Monday.

A report by the Independent Reform Commission published on Monday said previous UCI management were more concerned about their own image rather than tackling doping as the American rode his way to Tour de France glory from 1999-2005.

"The style of leadership is pretty much criticized in the report and led to major errors," Brian Cookson told reporters from the UCI headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland.

He added that the UCI was "trying to control and limit rather than eliminate (the problem) completely and at the time they always put the image and the business of the sport before integrity, transparency and honesty."

The then UCI management's shortcomings were first exposed in 2012 when the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) published their reasoned decision after banning Armstrong, who later admitted to cheating, for doping.

"UCI exempted Lance Armstrong from rules, failed to target test him despite the suspicions, and publicly supported him against allegations of doping," the report said.

"The report confirms that, for more than a decade, UCI leaders treated riders and teams unequally, allowing some to be above the rules," USADA president Travis Tygart said in a statement.

It helped Armstrong cheat his way to Tour de France triumphs, according to Cookson.

"Clearly, a rider like Lance Armstrong, in 1999, had a positive test for cortisone (during the Tour de France) and UCI assisted him in covering that up," the Briton, who was elected in 2013, said.   Continued...

Lance Armstrong takes part in a special session regarding cancer in the developing world during the Clinton Global Initiative in New York September 22, 2010.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson