Lance Armstrong - not admitting guilt (Photo : Reuters)
Lance Armstrong made substantial donations to the organization that oversaw his drug tests while he was cycling competitively, a fact that is being revisited in the media in light of Armstrong's announcement that he would no longer contest the USADA doping charges against him.
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The one-time World Champion and seven-time Tour de France winner maintains his innocence, but by giving up the fight will essentially allow himself to be stripped of his titles. "The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today - finished with this nonsense," he said in a statement.
The USADA, an American regulatory body, has pronounced Armstrong's wins void, and has called on the International Cycling Union (UCI), the worldwide governing body for competitive cycling, to follow suit. The UCI has been slow to do so, and there are some Armstrong detractors who view this with a cynical eye.
In May 2002, Armstrong and his wife gave a personal check for $25,000 to the UCI. In 2005, Armstrong donated another $100,000, this time through his management company, Capital Sports and Entertainment.
Those donations have haunted both Armstrong and the organization in recent years, and UCI president Pat McQuaid has admitted that accepting them might have been a mistake. Floyd Landis, the former Armstrong teammate who has publicly accused him of doping, has alleged that the UCI assisted Armstrong in covering up adverse test results.
Landis was the 2006 Tour de France winner who was later stripped of his title following a positive test for testosterone.
In a 2010 interview with Cyclingnews, UCI president Pat McQuaid said that the first donation from Armstrong had been put toward drug testing for junior riders, and the second toward the purchase of a Sysmex blood-testing machine. He indicated that the purchase of the machine would not have been possible without Armstrong's money.
McQuaid explained the UCI's readiness to support Armstrong by saying that Armstrong's high international profile was excellent for the sport.
"That's why I'm happy to work with him to help develop the sport of cycling," he told the website. "It's only normal that as we try and globalize the sport, we have good relation with the biggest star of the sport. Every sport does that. It doesn't mean he gets different treatment. Everyone still has to follow rules. Lance does all the tests like everyone else and there's absolutely nothing wrong with his biological passport."
Last year, the UCI filed a defamation suit against Landis.
This has not stopped observers from calling Armstrong's donations and the UCI's acceptance of them unseemly. In a column today, Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard wrote that Armstrong is the only pro athlete of any sport to donate money to a regulatory body.
"The conflict of interest is both stunning and appalling. It begs discussion at least," Karlgaard wrote. "Armstrong wants to avoid this discussion of UCI donations and possible complicity at all costs. He wants to avoid the public airing of his ex-teammates' testimony, at least one of whom is willing to say that the UCI gave Armstrong advanced notice of drug tests."