Three-time Tour de France winner Greg Lemond’s claim that he should take over cycling’s governing body to lead the sport out of crisis following the Lance Armstrong doping scandal is nothing but a publicity stunt, UCI President Pat McQuaid said Thursday.
McQuaid told The Associated Press that LeMond ”knows nothing” about running elite cycling and anti-doping programs.
”It is a little bit arrogant of Greg to come along and be used – and he is being used – as a PR stunt,” said McQuaid, describing LeMond as a ”good friend” from the 1980s. ”In all seriousness, this is not the time to be pulling stunts.”
The UCI leader suggested that LeMond made a mistake by letting cycling activists promote his bid to replace McQuaid after he joined their meeting in London this month.
”The last 25 years, where has he been? Nowhere. Not involved in cycling. He is outside cycling, shouting at it looking in,” McQuaid said.
The Irish official made clear he plans to stand for election to a third four-year mandate in September.
”We had a big crisis,” McQuaid said. ”We have a perception problem, I know that, but I don’t see me stepping down is going to change that perception. I need to oversee the action that is going on at the moment.”
LeMond, a longtime Armstrong critic, emerged as an unofficial spokesman in recent weeks for the UCI’s critics. They seized on the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s suggestions that the governing body protected Armstrong from scrutiny, and accepted money in exchange while he helped his teams run massive doping programs.
”I would love to be part of the process of change and if that means as interim (UCI) president then I would be willing to do that,” LeMond said at the Change Cycling Now forum in London. ”I am definitely not pushing myself.”
LeMond said it would be like ”the fox guarding the henhouse” to leave McQuaid and UCI honorary president Hein Verbruggen, who led cycling from 1991-2005, in office.
The UCI has reacted on three fronts since Oct. 22 when it endorsed a USADA report calling for Armstrong to be banned for life and stripped of his race results, including his record seven Tour de France titles.
McQuaid’s embattled organization is cooperating with an independent commission’s investigation into its links to the Armstrong case and is asking stakeholders how to improve cycling’s future. That future will not include a suggested new series of 10 four-day races, he told The AP.
McQuaid insisted Thursday that the UCI was ”as shocked as anybody else” to read of the detailed cheating by Armstrong’s Tour-winning U.S. Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams.
He criticized USADA for ”unacceptable” attacks on the UCI’s integrity, which he insisted would be upheld by the three-member commission hearings scheduled in London in April.
”We need a set of independent facts stating what actually happened,” said McQuaid, who expects he and Verbruggen will be called as witnesses in public sessions. ”That will be a good thing and the UCI has no fears coming from that.”
Former Armstrong teammates have accused UCI of covering up suspicious samples from Armstrong in exchange for payments totaling $125,000, claims that the governing body has denied.
Lawyers for the commission have begun taking documents and evidence from UCI archives, and McQuaid acknowledged there would be ”an open paper trail” explaining Armstrong’s payments, that went toward anti-doping projects.
”The commission may say it was a mistake to take it (Armstrong’s money). If they do, we will accept it,” he said.
The panel, chaired by retired British judge Philip Otton, has a June 1 deadline to deliver its report and recommendations.
On other issues, McQuaid quashed speculation that a revamped World Tour in 2014 could include a series of packaged four-day events alongside the three tours of France, Italy and Spain plus six one-day classics.
”We have had no discussions with anybody on that, and nor do we intend to,” McQuaid said.
On Thursday, the UCI also announced that consultancy firm KPMG will advise the federation on modernizing the way the Switzerland-based body is managed.
”It is going to be expensive, yes,” McQuaid said. ”This is a problem which has been caused by elite cycling, and elite cycling will have to face its responsibility.”
Citing the London Olympics and the 100th Tour de France next year, McQuaid said professional cycling was in good condition.
”Take away the Armstrong affair, and this has been a wonderful year,” he said