By Duncan Mackay

Pat McQuaid with head in hands October 2012November 13 - International Cycling Union (UCI) President Pat McQuaid claimed today that they have "always been a pioneer in the fight against doping" despite the Lance Armstrong scandal and denied allegations that they failed to act on information given to them about riders taking performance enhancing drugs.

McQuaid made his claims in an 1,000 word open letter published today on the UCI website, the first time he has properly addressed the issues surrounding Armstrong since the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) found him guilty of a "systematic campaign" to cheat and led to him being stripped of the seven Tour de France titles he won between 1999 and 2005 as well as being given a life ban.

But McQuaid claimed that the fault did not lay with the UCI but with the scientists who did not come up with a test that would have caught Armstrong.

"The UCI has always been a pioneer in the fight against doping, a fact recognised by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and the IOC (International Olympic Committee) among others," writes McQuaid in his letter addressed "Dear rider".

"We pride ourselves on the fact that we were the first sport to introduce a whole range of scientific measures as tools in this fight.

"These include the haematocrit test, the EPO (Erythropoietin) tests, the homologous blood transfusion test and the blood passport, which I do not need to tell you about, as you are in the front line and have been overwhelmingly supportive of these initiatives.

"We are aware that this extensive anti-doping programme causes much inconvenience for you, and we thank you for having accepted the hassle for the greater good of cycling.

"Nevertheless, when we read in the USADA dossier that Lance Armstrong and others were able to use doping throughout their careers, we have to admit that the tests provided by the scientific community were simply not adequate enough to combat the problem."

Lance Armstrong giving saluteThe UCI were let down by the scientific community because they failed to develop a drugs test to catch Lance Armstrong, claims President Pat McQuaid

McQuaid also denied claims that the UCI were implicit in helping cover up Armstrong's drug taking regime. 

Both Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton testified during the USADA investigation that the UCI covered up a positive EPO test involving Armstrong from the 2001 Tour of Switzerland.

British rider David Millar has also alleged that he contacted the UCI upon his comeback from a two-year drugs ban in 2006 over concerns about doping within the team he had joined, Saunier Duval, but he was ignored.

"We are aware that some riders have complained publicly that despite having shared knowledge with the UCI, there was an inadequate follow up," writes McQuaid.

"I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that the UCI did act on information provided in the past and it will always do so in the future, within the bounds of what is legally feasible.

"Clearly the UCI has to work within the rules and in particular in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code.

Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis Lons-Le Saunie July 23 2004Floyd Landis (right) has testified that the UCI covered up a positive drugs test involving Lance Armstrong (left) in 2001 - which Pat McQuaid denies

"At this time the rules do not allow general amnesties but the current review of the World Anti-Doping Code may provide different possibilities in the future.

"The rules do currently allow reduced penalties.

"We are aware, and doing the utmost to address your proposals/needs in the effort to do the best by our sport."

There have been calls for McQuaid to step down as President of the UCI but he remains defiant.

"As far as repairing the reputation of our sport, I would like to add that the UCI has listened to the world's reaction to the Lance Armstrong affair and it has taken – and will continue to take – decisive steps in response to all matters raised," he writes.

"To make sure that the UCI and cycling can move forward with the confidence of all parties, we are now establishing a fully Independent Commission to look into the findings of the USADA report and make recommendations to enable the UCI to restore confidence in the sport of cycling. 

John Coates in front of Olympic ringsAustralian IOC member John Coates has been appointed by the UCI to put together a commission to investigate the problem of doping in cycling

"John Coates, the President of the International Council of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS), has agreed to recommend the composition and membership of the Independent Commission.

"You can be confident that the UCI will take whatever actions are deemed necessary to put cycling back on track.

"We are confident that the Commission will conclude that the UCI has been one of the strongest of all sporting federations in fighting doping in sport for many years."

To read the letter in full click here.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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