Indurain believes in Armstrong


Cycling:Five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain believes Lance Armstrong is not guilty of doping despite the evidence produced by the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada).

“Even now I believe in his innocence. He has always respected all the rules,” Indurain, who won the Tour from 1991-95, was quoted as telling Radio Marca.

“I’m a bit surprised. It’s a bit strange that this was only based on testimonies,” he added in reference to Usada’s 1,000-page report featuring testimonies from 11 former Armstrong team-mates.

One of those team-mates, Tyler Hamilton, has blasted International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid, saying the Irishman has “no place” in the sport.

McQuaid had described Hamilton and Floyd Landis, who also testified against Armstrong, as “scumbags” on Monday after the UCI ratified the US Anti-Doping Agency’s (Usada) decision to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles.

Hamilton and Landis were among the 11 former Armstrong team-mates to testify against him.

“Pat McQuaid’s comments expose the hypocrisy of his leadership and demonstrate why he is incapable of any meaningful change,” Hamilton wrote in a statement on Tuesday.

“Instead of seizing an opportunity to instil hope for the next generation of cyclists, he continues to point fingers, shift blame and attack those who speak out, tactics that are no longer effective. Pat McQuaid has no place in cycling.”

McQuaid had started to thank those who had testified before Usada but then directed his anger at Hamilton and Landis, the first Armstrong team-mates to break the code of silence.

“Landis started it, he was in a bottomless hole and he said the only way out of it was to bring the sport down,” McQuaid said on Monday after his hour-long media conference in Geneva.

“Another thing that annoys me is that Landis and Hamilton are being made out to be heroes. They are as far from heroes as night and day. They are not heroes, they are scumbags. All they have done is damage the sport.”

Both Landis and Hamilton have claimed the UCI covered up an Armstrong positive test for the banned blood booster EPO at the 2001 Tour de Suisse.

The UCI, however, have denied covering up a test, producing on Monday what they said was evidence that an Armstrong sample was ‘suspicious’, not ‘positive’.

“We did not cover up anything because there was nothing to be covered up,” said McQuaid.

Armstrong made a $25,000 donation to the UCI the year after that race and a further donation of $100,000 in 2005, and speaking on RTÉ Radio 1 this morning, McQuaid said the UCI may have made a bad decision at the time, although it is a practice that still goes on.

“On reflection, the UCI might have been as well not accepting that money,” McQuaid told the Today programme. “And in actual fact I can tell you now that the UCI does accept money from the teams and the riders. Our anti-doping programme costs us €7.5 million per annum. The UCI doesn’t have that sort of money to do it, so the teams pay €120,000 each into the system and the riders pay 3 per cent of their prizemoney into the system, so they are funding the anti-doping programme. That’s all above board and that’s the way it’s done now.”

McQuaid also reiterated that he will not be standing down from his position due to the fallout from the Armstrong affair, which has included Rabobank pulling their €15 million of team sponsorship from the sport recently.

“I have no intention of resigning. I’m elected by 175 national federations around the world to work on behalf of the sport and work on behalf of them and that’s what I do and that’s what I will continue to do unless they decide otherwise. And it’s not journalists in Ireland or journalists in England or anywhere that will decide if I stay in this sport or not, it will be my stakeholders,” added McQuaid.

“In relation to sponsorship, yes Rabobank pulled out. There were more reasons than just the Armstrong affair as to why Rabobank pulled out, but having said that there is no sign of a massive exodus of money going out of the sport. As a matter of fact I’ve actually already taken a call about a possible replacement for Rabobank.

Armstrong, meanwhile, could be forced to repay his Tour de France winnings after being stripped of his seven titles.

The UCI management committee will meet on Friday to discuss the “exact sporting consequences” of the decision, including whether the titles and prize money will be re-distributed.

Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme believes the race must not have a victor in the Armstrong years.

Prudhomme said: "The formal decision has to be taken by the UCI but for us, we must have a clean record. This period must be marked by the absence of winners.

"The UCI rules are clear. When a rider is disqualified, he must pay the prizemoney back."

The International Olympic Committee will await Friday’s UCI meeting and further information before a decision is made on the bronze medal Armstrong won in Sydney in 2000.

Armstrong will be pursued for $5 million in bonus payments in relation to his Tour de France victories.

The 41-year-old received the bonus payments after a legal battle with SCA Promotions, who had declined to pay the sum in the belief the American had doped to win.

Jeff Tillotson, lawyer for SCA Promotions, said: “It is inappropriate and improper for him to keep those bonus amounts and we will be demanding them back and pursuing appropriate legal action if he does not return them.”

Armstrong has removed ‘7-time Tour de France champion’ from his Twitter profile in his first response to being stripped of his seven titles for doping offences.

His profile now reads: “Raising my five kids. Fighting Cancer. Swim, bike, run and golf whenever I can.”

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