Cycling Independent Reform Commission report: A full breakdown of findings
All the key points on Lance Armstrong, UCI failings, the state of cycling now and recommendations for the future
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 09/03/15 7:48pm
The Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) report was 228 pages and more than 80,000 words long.
Its contents can be roughly categorised into the following four sections: Lance Armstrong, the conduct of the International Cycling Union (UCI), the state of cycling now and recommendations for the future.
Here are the key points from each...
- "The commission found no evidence to support the allegations" that Lance Armstrong tested positive during the 2001 Tour de Suisse and paid the UCI to cover it up. Lab reports show he did not test positive, but two of his five samples were suspicious for EPO. Armstrong made a donation to the UCI of $25,000 in May 2002, but the commission said "there is no evidence that the two were linked". CIRC added that it had "not found any evidence of corruption in relation to a positive test by Lance Armstrong during the Tour de Suisse in 2001, as alleged by Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis in their affidavits to USADA as part of the Reasoned Decision".
- The commission also found no links between a $100,000 donation Armstrong made to the UCI to help finance the Vrijman report, which had been commissioned to investigate allegations that Armstrong had tested positive for EPO at the 1999 Tour de France. The allegations of the failed test surfaced in August 2005, six months after Armstrong had originally proposed to donate the money (he eventually paid in January 2007). The commission said "the timing indicates that the two were not related".
- However, with regards to the Vrijman report, the commission concluded that the UCI "purposely limited the scope of the independent investigator's mandate" and that the "UCI, together with the Armstrong team became directly and heavily involved in the drafting of the Vrijman report".
- The commission felt Lance Armstrong’s lifetime ban was excessive, saying: "It is true that there is a striking difference when looking at the period of ineligibility of the sanction against Lance Armstrong and certain riders that have testified against him. The range goes from 6 months up to a lifetime ban. CIRC is of the view that this difference in treatment can hardly be justified by looking at the gravity and/or seriousness of the ADRVs [anti-doping rule violations] in question."
THE CONDUCT OF THE UCI
- The commission said that the UCI "consistently failed" to apply its own doping rules in relation to Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs). It gave the examples of Larent Brochard in 1997 and Armstrong 1999, "when both riders were permitted to provide backdated prescriptions to avoid sanctions". It added: "Disciplinary proceedings should have been opened by UCI against both Laurent Brochard and Lance Armstrong following their positive tests for prohibited substances."
- The CIRC said: "UCI management seemed to be of the view that doping scandals were not something that the UCI was responsible or accountable for."
- The UCI also failed to follow its own rules by allowing Armstrong to compete in the 2009 Tour Down Under, despite him not having been in the UCI testing pool long enough. The commission said there was "no direct evidence of an agreement" between Armstrong and then UCI president Pat McQuaid, but added that it has information showing that McQuaid "made a sudden U-turn" to allow Armstrong to return 13 days early in order to take part in the Tour Down Under. It added that there was a "temporal link" between that decision and Armstrong's decision to ride the Tour of Ireland, "an event run by people known to Pat McQuaid".
- The commission found there was "preferential treatment for Lance Armstrong" from the UCI, which "defended" or "protected" Armstrong and took decisions that were "favourable to him". The commission added: "This was in circumstances where was strong reason to suspect him of doping, which should have led UCI to be more circumspect in its dealings with him." The commission said the UCI made Armstrong exempt from rules, failed to target test him and publicly defended him against doping allegations. This included 2012, when the UCI threatened the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s jurisdiction when publishing the Reasoned Decision that ultimately led to Armstrong's downfall.
- The CIRC concluded that the UCI became "an entity run in an autocratic manner without appropriate checks and balances" and added that "if the president wanted to take a particular direction, he was able to do so almost unchallenged”. It said this culture began under Hein Verbruggen's presidency but added that "this autocratic structure based on loyal hand-picked colleagues in key roles persisted also through the era of the presidency of Pat McQuaid".
- The CIRC heavily criticised McQuaid's conduct in recent UCI presidential elections. It said that in 2005, when McQuaid took office, he received "considerable benefits and other support" from outgoing president Hein Verbruggen, "unlike other candidates" and despite complaints for a member of the UCI Management Committee. The commission then criticised McQuaid’s seeking of nominations from the Moroccan and Thai federations ahead of the 2013 election, despite rules stating candidates must be nominated by their own federation. The commission found “serious problems with UCI’s governance and the deficiencies in its democratic process”.
- The CIRC criticised the UCI for prioritising the growth of the sport worldwide and protecting its reputation. It said "doping was perceived as a threat" and added that decisions taken by the UCI leadership in the past "have undermined doping efforts". Tactics used included "publicly criticising whistleblowers". However, it added that it was not suggesting the UCI leadership "knowingly or deliberately allowed doping and high-profile dopers to continue within the sport".
- Under Verbruggen, president between 1991 and 2005, the commission said the UCI portrayed doping as the fault of individuals and not an endemic or structural problem. It added the UCI publicly disregarded the magnitude of the problem and that anti-doping policies were “inadequate” and that a strategy of targeting the “abuse of doping substances rather than the use of them” was “only the visible tip of the iceberg was tackled”.
- From 2006 to the present day, with McQuaid and now Brian Cookson as UCI president, the commission said “important changes were agreed an implemented”, such as out-of-competition testing and the introduction of the biological passport. It added they had “changed the behaviour of elite road cyclists considerably”. However, it acknowledged that “ineffective management of crisis situations”, such as Armstrong and Alberto Contador’s doping cases, plus the “devastating election campaign in 2013” had “ruined UCI’s credibility in the eyes of the public”.
CYCLING'S CURRENT STATE
- The CIRC said things have improved but “a culture of doping continues to exist”.
- The big concern is that riders have “moved on to micro-dosing in a controlled manner that keeps their blood parameters constant and enables them to avoid detection”.
- Whereas doping in the past was organised by teams, elite-level riders who dope “now organise their own doping programmes with the help of third parties who are primarily outside the cycling team”. The commission added that “doctors play a key role in devising programmes that provide performance enhancement”. The commission added that “programmes today are often individually organised, clandestine programmes”.
- The commission said doping is encouraged by “financial instability throughout the sport”. It acknowledged that teams often depend on one sponsor and therefore both teams and riders are under “huge pressure” to get results in order to keep sponsors or extend contracts.
- The commission also raised concern that dopers from a previous era of cycling continue to work in the sport and that riders are still reluctant to report doping to the authorities.
- The commission concluded that there is “still considerable room for improvement” in the UCI’s anti-doping policy.
- The CIRC said that “interviewees felt the Grand Tours were different from other kinds of endurance sports, and other cycling competitions, and the three-week races required special forms of performance assistance and substances for recovery”.
- The CIRC discovered that doping “has become more opaque as riders have now been forced to dope ‘underground’”.
- Several current teams are said to dope. CIRC reported: “A common response to the Commission, when asked about teams, was that probably 3 or 4 were clean, 3 or 4 were doping, and the rest were a ‘don’t know’.”
- CIRC said that, as a result of the biological passport, “10-15% gains [in performance] have become a thing of the past”. Instead, “increases in performance by microdosing EPO are now perhaps between 3-5%”.
- The CIRC said: “As one interviewee told the Commission, another way that riders might get access to doping products is through their agents. Agents are well connected and by representing many riders can create a network to cater for all the riders’ needs.”
- The CIRC found that “doping occurs in women’s cycling, although it most probably is not as widespread and systematic”. It also discovered that female riders “had been exploited financially and even allegedly sexually”.
- One of the CIRC’s most damning conclusions was that “the Commission did not hear from anyone credible in the sport who would give cycling a clean bill of health in the context of doping today”. It added that “the challenge to the UCI is huge, given that the culture of doping has not been eradicated”.
- The CIRC heard from interviewees that Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) are “systematically exploited by some teams and even used as part of performance-enhancement programmes”. It said that “in one rider’s opinion, 90% of TUEs were used for performance-enhancing purposes.”
- The commission quoted an unnamed doctor as saying “some quite recent big wins on the UCI WorldTour were as a result, in part, of some of the team all using corticoids to get their weight down to support the individual who won”.
- The commission said “the absence of night-time testing is a weakness in the current system and needs to be addressed”. It added that the lack of testing between 11pm and 6am “helps rider who micro-dose to avoid being caught”.
- More re-testing and retrospective testing.
- The UCI should set up an independent whistleblower desk to “encourage people to come forward with information”.
- Sanctioned doctors should be banned from all professional work.
- The CIRC said the “UCI should make efforts to investigate those individuals that it believes were involved in doping in the past”.