Michael Pavitt
Michael Pavitt ©ITGIt may have lacked the television build up and a dramatic on air confession that Lance Armstrong's confession to Oprah had, but the Cycling Independent Reform Commission's (CIRC) 227-page report into doping in cycling represents a significant moment in the sport's history.

Some have already expressed disappointment that a lack of new guilty names have been exposed by the report, but perhaps that is not such a bad thing. With the report focusing more on the trends and cultures prevalent during what has become known as "The Armstrong Era" it presents a more balanced account of the time-period, without the focus on one man.

Although Armstrong will rightly go down in history as one of the biggest drug cheats in the history of sport, the American has had a fair point that he has been treated disproportionally to fellow dopers and International Cycling Union (UCI) officials, who are also culpable in allowing the doping culture to thrive in the sport. Armstrong has become the pantomime villain and the report does well to provide balance to the debate.

Instead, there is an acknowledgement that the problem of doping was more widespread than just Armstrong and that multiple people were to blame, including former UCI Presidents Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid, both former International Olympic Committee members. 

Allegations of corruption may have proved unfounded, but suggestions by Verbruggen and McQuaid they have been exonerated by the report, is akin to somebody fist pumping in celebration after receiving a verdict of manslaughter, when facing a murder charge.

The report stating that, under their leadership, Armstrong was viewed as the perfect man to lead the sport forward after the 1998 Festina scandal, presents a damning conclusion of a governing body who were prepared to prioritise the clean cut image of their sport over its integrity.

With Armstrong allowed to compete contrary to UCI rules and have influence over the Vrijman Report, clearly the culture was allowed to develop by the UCI and the sport now is paying the consequences.

Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen's reigns as UCI President were criticised in the report ©AFP/Getty ImagesPat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen's reigns as UCI President were criticised in the report ©AFP/Getty Images

There is a danger that one of lasting legacies of the "Armstrong Era" is that that cycling has reached the point where athletes are guilty until proven innocent, rather than innocent until proven guilty.

We have seen in recent editions of the Tour de France that riders are under even more suspicion than ever before, with the leader's yellow jersey now seemingly sporting an EPO stained question mark.

Performances of the current generation are viewed with the likes of Armstrong in mind. For instance, Bradley Wiggins was forced to deliver an impassioned and expletive defence on route to winning the Tour in 2012. It was followed a year later by Chris Froome facing similar accusations at the 100th edition of the race, with his dominant victory on Mont Ventoux immediately viewed sceptically.

In this sense, CIRC has been disingenuous to the current generation of athletes, with the attention grabbing estimate from a "respected former professional" that 90 per cent may still be doping. The figure has fuelled suspicion whereas in reality it is impossible to make an accurate prediction of the scale of doping prevalent in the sport at this current time, with double Olympic gold medallist Geriant Thomas labelling the estimate as "insulting".

This is heightened when you consider the report focuses on men's elite road racing, with only limited attention paid to women's equivalent and none to the track side of the sport. Yet they are all tarnished by the dopers tag.

Double Olympic champion Geriant Thomas labelled the estimate that 90 per cent of cyclists were doping as insulting ©Getty ImagesDouble Olympic champion Geriant Thomas labelled the estimate that 90 per cent of cyclists were doping as insulting ©Getty Images

However, in outlining the fact the micro-dosing is considered one of the biggest challenges remaining, the sport can be seen to have made major advantages in reducing the scale of the problem, through the use of the biological passport and whereabouts system.

The recommendations to open a whistle-blower desk and target suspected micro-dosers with night time testing, although positive ideas, seem unlikely bring about a dramatic decrease in doping, while Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford's suggestion for investigators to live with the teams seems unworkable.

While undoubted successes and positive ideas, it will prove to be interesting to see how the UCI attempts to tackle the issue of micro-dosing and Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) abuse.

Furthermore, the difficulties of testing athletes who choose to train in remote locations, preventing youth from becoming indoctrinated into a doping culture, and the development of designer drugs were identified by CIRC as key challenges for the cycling to face.

Despite the report looking specifically at cycling, these final three issues are, in my view, not cycling-specific, as other sports face the same difficulties.

Perhaps the CIRC report could prove to be a useful opportunity for governing bodies to work together in dealing with shared doping issues.

Additionally, it should provide them with a warning that integrity of their sport must come before its image.

Michael Pavitt is a junior reporter for insidethegames. To follow him on Twitter click here