The International Cycling Union (UCI) is accused of initiating a "cover-up of doping offences" in a 227-page report published by the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC), per Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail.
Monday's report suggests two former presidents of the UCI, Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid, "did not really want to catch cheats and therefore turned a blind eye to anything but the worst excesses," noted BBC Sport's Matt Slater.
It is suggested doping "remains a serious problem" in cycling, per Lawton. Verbruggen reportedly pushed Lance Armstrong to becoming the face of the profession because he represented the "perfect antidote" to the Festina scandal, which saw members of the team confess to using erythropoietin (EPO)—a hormone that increases the production of red blood cells—prior to the 1998 Tour de France.
Paul Kelso of Sky News commented:
The CIRC report was ordered by current president Brian Cookson. He provided an overview, reported by Lawton:
It is clear from reading this report that in the past the UCI suffered severely from a lack of good governance with individuals taking crucial decisions alone, many of which undermined anti-doping efforts, and put itself in an extraordinary position of proximity to certain riders. It is also clear that the UCI leadership interfered in operational decisions on anti-doping matters and these factors served to erode confidence in the UCI and the sport.
The report highlights a number of ways in which previous UCI leaderships have aimed to hide doping from the public eye. This includes "adopting an attitude that prioritised a clean image and sought to contain the doping problem, to disregarding the rules and giving preferential status to high-profile athletes, to publicly criticising whistleblowers and engaging in personal disputes with other stakeholders," per Lawton's report.
Interestingly, Slater analyses a number of tidbits from the CIRC report in his article. It is indicated doping is "endemic" in amateur cycling and that increased scrutiny in the professional ranks has seen other types of cheating become prominent. This includes bikes and equipment being tampered with in illegal ways.
Slater highlights "one respected cycling professional" believes 90 percent of the peloton are doping, while another indicates the number is around 20 percent.
Such information came from a report that utilised interviews from 174 riders and officials, per Lawton. This includes Armstrong, who as much as being propelled to worldwide fame as cycling's poster boy is now the face of an incredibly damaging sting.
Although it is suggested Verbruggen and McQuaid were cleared of taking a bribe to cover up Armstrong's doping in 2001, the former is said to have enjoyed "dictatorial powers" during his 14-year stint in charge, per Slater. This influence barely took a hit when he stepped down in 2005, but both former presidents are outlined to have seriously breached their responsibility.
The report indicates Laurent Brochard and Armstrong were allowed to backdate medical prescriptions to escape being caught in 1997 and '99 respectively, while McQuaid is said to have let Armstrong ride in the 2009 Tour Down Under despite him failing to undergo a test for drugs in the six months prior to its start.
Both Verbruggen and McQuaid are accused of breaching the rules in the runup to the 2005 and 2013 elections, per Slater's report.
Cookson's decision to order the examination was undoubtedly a brave move, one that was always going to unearth plenty of home truths about former regimes. It's his job to begin rebuilding the credibility of cycling, a task that unfortunately begins with revealing the damage inflicted by previous personalities in the sport.
Armstrong's success made him the most recognisable and marketable star cycling has ever seen. His legacy, and indeed the reputation of many others, continues to unravel. The CIRC report pulls no punches, perhaps a vital step for the sport to overcome such a difficult time.