Cycling officials let doping flourish and broke their own rules so Lance Armstrong could cheat his way to becoming the superstar the sport badly needed, according to a scathing report into its drug culture. The International Cycling Union was severely criticized for failing to act during the doping era dominated by Armstrong, but the 227-page report the governing body released early today found no evidence that he paid to cover up alleged positive tests. The yearlong probe was commissioned by the new UCI leadership, and while it turned up no major revelations, and found no proof that a payment Armstrong made to the UCI was to cover up a positive test, it suggested doping is still rife in top-level road cycling. Still, the UCI hopes publishing the report can help turn the page on the doping era and instill confidence that cycling is serious about stamping out cheating.
The UCI's lack of will to curb Armstrong and other riders in an era "infested" with use of the blood-boosting hormone EPO is made clear in the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) report. "Going after the cheaters was perceived as a witch-hunt that would be detrimental to the image of cycling," the three-man investigation panel concluded. Former UCI presidents Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid are described respectively as "autocratic" and "weak" leaders who undermined anti-doping efforts. The report said both onetime IOC members defended and protected Armstrong "and took decisions because they were favorable to him." The report also said many riders believe doping is still widespread as athletes adapt to evade new tests and detection methods, such as the biological passport pioneered by the UCI—but that the passport does help clean riders today have a chance of being competitive. Click for more. (Read more International Cycling Union stories.)