The president of cycling's international governing body, the UCI, reacted sharply Friday to statements by disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong implying that it is still impossible to win the Tour de France without doping.
"I can tell him categorically that he is wrong. His comments do absolutely nothing to help cycling," Pat McQuaid said in response to remarks Armstrong made to French daily Le Monde.
"It is very sad that Lance Armstrong has decided to make this statement on the eve of the Tour de France," McQuaid was quoted as saying in a UCI press release.
Echoing remarks he made to Oprah Winfrey early this year, when he first admitted to using illicit performance-enhancing drugs, the 41-year-old Armstrong told Le Monde that it would have been impossible to win the Tour without doping in 1999-2005 (the years he captured cycling's most prestigious race).
The American, who had denied cheating for years, was stripped on those titles after refusing last year to defend himself from allegations compiled by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
"The Tour de France? No. Impossible to win without doping," Armstrong said.
"My name was taken out of the palmares (list of achievements) but the Tour was held between 1999 and 2005 wasn't it? There must be a winner then. Who is he? Nobody came forward to claim my jerseys."
Armstrong also slammed the head of the UCI and said things "just cannot change as long as McQuaid stays in power."
"The UCI refuses to establish a 'truth and reconciliation commission' because the testimony that everyone would want to hear would bring McQuaid, (his predecessor) Hein Verbruggen and the whole institution down," he added.
McQuaid, however, fired back by saying that "the culture within cycling has changed since the Armstrong era and it is now possible to race and win clean," claiming that the "most sophisticated anti-doping infrastructure in sport" is now in place.
"Riders and teams owners have been forthright in saying that it is possible to win clean - and I agree with them," the Irishman added.
He said a "complete sea-change" had occurred in cycling since the Texan was banned from racing and that, though doping has not been completely eradicated, his work at the helm of the UCI to ensure a clean sport was "unrelenting."
"In addition, the UCI is totally committed to conducting an independent audit into its behavior during the years when Armstrong was winning the Tour," McQuaid said.
He added that "once the audit is completed, the UCI remains totally committed to some form of 'truth process' for professional cycling."
The 2013 Tour de France gets underway on Saturday and will run until July 21. EFE