Time is running out for cycling to confront its culture of doping and clean up the sport once and for all, according to the man who brought down Lance Armstrong.
Citing evidence that doping remains prevalent in the sport, US Anti-Doping Agency CEO Travis Tygart said on Thursday cycling must move urgently with the independent reform commission looking into the history of drug use and the governing body’s alleged complicity with Armstrong.
“We all want to move on and turn the page,” Tygart said. “But the job is not done. … Time is of the essence. Another day can’t go by until it’s put in place in a proper fashion and the process starts.”
Tygart said the sport has progressed under the new leadership of UCI President Brian Cookson, who ousted Pat McQuaid in September.
But he said the “honeymoon” will soon be over, putting Cookson and the UCI under pressure to carry through with their pledge to restore credibility to cycling’s drug-riddled reputation.
“Just because you change the top, the dirty system doesn’t necessarily change,” Tygart said on the sidelines of the Tackling Doping in Sport conference at Wembley Stadium.
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from elite sport for life by USADA after the agency detailed systematic doping by the American rider and his teams. After years of denials, Armstrong admitted to doping in a television interview with Oprah Winfrey.
Tygart said Armstrong’s appearance before the commission is not vital because most of the information about his doping has already come out. He said it would still be in Armstrong’s personal interest to testify “from a reputational and rehabilitation standpoint.”
There’s also no need to hear from former UCI presidents McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen, he said.
On a separate issue, Tygart expressed skepticism over Jamaica’s promises to revamp its anti-doping program in wake of revelations of a complete lack of out-of-competition testing in the months before the London Olympics.
“I need to see it to believe it,” Tygart said.
World Anti-Doping Agency director general David Howman said on Wednesday that Jamaica’s anti-doping body JADCO has done “exactly what we’ve asked” to get the program back in order. JADCO has new leadership and is being mentored by Canada’s anti-doping body.
Tygart said he spoke with the Jamaicans last November and offered to send a USADA employee to the Caribbean island to assist their anti-doping program, but never heard back from them.
“I worry we’re not going to see any progress,” he said.
Jamaica’s lack of testing, Tygart said, has unfairly raised doubts about athletes like Usain Bolt, the world record holder and Olympic and world champion in the 100 and 200 metres.
“I think those athletes are being let down by JADCO and Jamaican authorities.”