Cookson: Doping in cycling ‘still an endemic problem’

The UCI chief said the governing body continues to take steps to clean up the sport

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AIGLE, Switzerland (AFP) — Doping remains an endemic problem, UCI President Brian Cookson said on Monday after the publication of a damning independent report accusing cycling’s world governing body of turning a blind eye to drug cheat Lance Armstrong.

“I don’t really believe 90 percent of the peloton are still doping for instance as a witness says, but I do believe there’s still an endemic problem of lower-level doping,” Cookson said.

“I believe efforts have been made to tackle those problems, there have been major steps forward like the biological passport.

“It’s now possible to compete in professional cycling without doping. Nevertheless, there’s still a problem there, clearly in any sport there are people trying to cheat and we need to stop them and to protect riders who want to compete without cheating. We have a lot more to do and we will continue.”

Cookson was speaking after an independent commission accused former UCI presidents Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid of shielding Armstrong from investigation.

Armstrong, who defeated cancer before winning seven straight Tour de France titles from 1999-2005, was stripped of his titles in 2012 and banned from the sport for life. He admitted to using banned substances during his career in a 2013 interview with Oprah Winfrey.

“The UCI management has changed, we no longer close our eyes to doping,” Cookson said.

“The style of leadership of Hein Verbruggen is criticized in the report and that style of leadership led to some of the major errors.

“Image and the business of the sport were put before integrity and transparency and honesty, that approach was taken too far. I hope these two won’t have any role in cycling in the future.”

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