By Duncan Mackay

Lance Armstrong profile shotApril 25 - Attempts to gather evidence that Lance Armstrong used banned performance-enhancing drugs were blocked by the International Cycling Union (UCI), who were involved in a cover-up, it was claimed today by Travis Tygart, head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). 

Tygart made the allegations in Paris as he gave evidence under oath to the French Senate investigating doping in sport. 

"The UCI did everything to put obstacles in our way," he told the panel.

"They refused to send us the results of tests and they are still refusing to supply us with those of three of Armstrong's team-mates."

Tygart later also claimed that Armstrong, stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life after being found guilty by USADA, had ''evidence of the UCI's involvement in this affair".

Tygart, who appeared before the Senate for an hour-and-a-half, claimed Armstrong, who finally admitted doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey in January, could hold the key to revealing the extent of that involvement.

Travis Tygart giving evidence to French Senate April 25 2013Travis Tygart giving evidence to French Senate where he was critical of the UCI

"Armstrong led us to believe - during the course of our interaction with him - that he had evidence of their complicity in this situation, and of course we've developed additional information that will come out through our process, that I can't comment on right now," Tygart said afterwards in an interview with The Associated Press.

"Our firm belief is [he has] and obviously I wouldn't say that unless I had backing to say it.

"We're convinced."

The explosive claims will put even more pressure on President Pat McQuaid and his predecessor, Hein Verbruggen, who have always denied that they knew Armstrong was using banned drugs or that they were involved in protecting him. 

Lance Armstrong with Hein VerbruggenLance Armstrong with former UCI President Hein Verbruggen, who has always denied that he was involved in a cover-up to protect the American cyclist

"They [the UCI] knew that Armstrong was working with Dr [Michele] Ferrari, who supplied [the blood doping product] EPO (Erythropoietin) to sportsmen in Italy," Tygart told the Senate.

"They could have looked more closely at their relationship.

"They accepted payments in cash from Armstrong, but didn't provide receipts for any of them.

"We think that the leaders of the sport have singularly failed in the fight against doping.

"In the last six months [since the Armstrong scandal broke], they have done absolutely nothing.

"It is unacceptable for the UCI to have accepted our reasoned decision, publicly announced that 'decisive action was needed' and simply have done nothing,

"Well, the only decisive action came a few weeks later when UCI disbanded the established Independent Commission when it actually started to act independently by taking off the handcuffs and removing the blindfolds that the UCI had placed on it from the onset.

"The UCI's current strategy is to let time pass and hope people forget, but it's time for sports lovers to know the truth."

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