Cycling officials gave Armstrong preferential treatment: report

RadioShack's team rider Lance Armstrong (R) cycles during the eighth stage of the Tour de Suisse in 2010. (Photo by Christian Hartmann/Reuters)
RadioShack's team rider Lance Armstrong (R) cycles during the eighth stage of the Tour de Suisse in 2010.

Cycling officials conveniently ignored the sport’s well-known doping problem and gave Lance Armstrong  preferential treatment in hopes that he would head up the sport’s much-needed “renaissance,” according to a scathing new report from the Cycling Independent Reform Commission.

The year-long probe into the International Cycling Union (UCI) concluded the global organization “exempted Lance Armstrong from rules, failed to target test him despite the suspicions, and publicly supported him against allegations of doping, even as late as 2012.”

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In October of 2012, Armstrong was stripped of all seven of his Tour de France titles following accusations by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that he led a doping program on his teams. Armstrong, who won the races from 1999 through 2005, vehemently denied that he was doping but later confessed during a 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his cycling career.

The latest report issued by the three-member commission said that then-UCI presidents initiated a “special relationship” with Armstrong and “failed to establish a more distant relationship, which would have been more prudent given his status as an athlete and because of suspicions of doping that persisted.” It also found no proof of allegations that Armstrong paid the UCI to cover up a previous doping test.

Armstrong said in a statement to the Washington Post that he was “grateful” for the CIRC report, which he participated in, saying “I am deeply sorry for many things that I have done.” He added, “It is my hope that revealing the truth will lead to a bright, dope-free future for the sport I love and will allow all young riders emerging from small towns throughout the world in years to come to chase their dreams without having to face the lose-lose choices that so many of my friends, teammates and opponents faced.”

Armstrong is currently trying to overturn a lifetime ban imposed by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.