UCI claims 'no conflict of interest' in Armstrong donation

$100,000 pledged in 2002 failed to materialise for three years

World cycling chief Pat McQuaid rejected claims there was a conflict of interest in the sport's governing body accepting a $US100,000 donation from Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong, the seven-times Tour de France champion, was forced on the defensive once more last week after stinging allegations of systematic doping were levelled at him by former teammate Floyd Landis.

Landis claimed Armstrong and his team manager Johan Bruyneel helped him use a range of banned substances and methods to beat the anti-doping controls during his career. And Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 yellow jersey after a positive test for testosterone, claimed the International Cycling Union (UCI) helped Armstrong conceal a positive test at the Tour of Switzerland in 2002.

Armstrong, however, competed in the 2001 edition of the race.

Armstrong and the UCI, then under the presidency of IOC member Hein Verbruggen, have denied all the accusations.

Current UCI chief Pat McQuaid admitted, however, accepting $100,000 from Armstrong. But the Irishman said on Tuesday he did not consider that to constitute a conflict of interest.

"In 2002 just after the inauguration of the world cycling centre (in Aigle, Switzerland) Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel visited the facilities," said McQuaid.

"Armstrong was very impressed and offered a $100,000 donation to help in the development of cycling."

McQuaid said the money was used to buy a machine used for analysing blood samples, but that the UCI had to chase up the promised funds which failed to materialise three years later.

"The UCI decided to use this money to buy a (blood analysis) machine. Three years later we realised that the money still hadn't been deposited," added McQuaid. "We informed the company which manages Armstrong's finances and the money was soon paid."

Revelations of Armstrong's gift could set tongues wagging, especially in the wake of more doping allegations centring on the seven-time Tour de France champion.

McQuaid said that back in 2002 there was no need to query the integrity of Armstrong's offer, but admitted the UCI would now tread more carefully if faced with the same situation.

"You have to look at the context of that period. In 2002 Armstrong was facing no doping allegations," he added.

McQuaid categorically denied that under Verbruggen's guidance the UCI was able to help Armstrong evade a positive test for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin).

The Irishman claiming he has contacted all laboratories who would have been informed of such a positive test at the time.

"All the information we've had shows in a clear and definitive manner that it was impossible for my predecessor to conceal a positive doping test," added McQuaid. "It is just not possible."

Last week McQuaid labelled Landis "sad" for taking aim at Armstrong, however the UCI chief said the body is "taking the claims seriously" and has asked five national federations in total to launch investigations.

For Armstrong the US anti-doping agency (USADA) has been mandated to carry out a probe while McQuaid has also asked the Belgian federation to probe the claims concerning Bruyneel.

The federations of Australia, Canada and France have also been asked to investigate after Landis's claims respectively implicated professional Matthew White, Michael Barry and John Lelangue, Landis's former manager at Phonak who is actually Belgian.

© AFP 2010

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