The International Cycling Union (UCI) is under pressure to reveal how shamed US rider Lance Armstrong was able to escape detection for doping for so long. According to a number of his former team-mates, the seven-time Tour de France winner bragged about having managed to suppress a positive test for the blood booster erythropotein (EPO) on the 2001 Tour of Switzerland.
The head of the Lausanne laboratory involved confirmed to US investigators that the sample in question was disputed, although given the science at the time, it was not considered strong enough evidence to put before a court. Simply put, the “positive” test was an assumption. Tests for EPO had only been approved two months earlier.
“It wasn't possible for my predecessor (Hein Verbruggen) to hide the result,” the current president of the UCI, Pat McQuaid, said in 2010, later saying: “There was no positive test.”
But the formal position of the UCI and its refusal to allow the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to re-examine the test without Armstrong's consent has prompted opponents to claim it is compromised.
More troubling still is that UCI accepted two donations from Armstrong between 2002 and 2005 for a total of $125,000 (R66 lakh), which were used to buy anti-doping technology, including a blood analysis machine.
“You have to consider the context at the time. In 2002, there were no claims of doping against Armstrong," McQuaid said in 2010, although he acknowledged that the organisation would be careful in future about any similar donations in future.