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    Mar 10, 2015

    Cycling officials 'protected' Armstrong


    AN INDEPENDENT commission yesterday accused top leaders of cycling's world body of protecting Lance Armstrong despite mounting signs that the now-disgraced Tour de France winner was a doping cheat.

    The Cycling Independent Reform Commission (Circ) also said Armstrong was seen as the "perfect choice to lead the sport's renaissance" after the Festina drug scandal on the Tour de France in 1998.

    "The fact that he was American opened up a new continent for the sport, he had beaten cancer and the media quickly made him a global star."

    The commission, led by Dick Marty, a Swiss politician and former state prosecutor, was set up following allegations that Armstrong made cash donations to the International Cycling Union (UCI) in a bid to cover up doping failures.

    Armstrong, who defeated cancer to go on and win seven straight Tour de France races from 1999 to 2005, was stripped of his titles in 2012 and banned from the sport for life. The fallen United States cycling hero, 43, now admits taking banned substances.

    The commission said it found no links between donations amounting to US$125,000 he made to UCI and a cover-up of his drug failures. However, Circ gave a damning assessment of efforts by UCI under past presidents Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid to shield Armstrong from investigation.

    "Numerous examples have been identified showing that UCI leadership 'defended' or 'protected' Lance Armstrong, and took decisions because they were favourable to him. This was in circumstances where there was strong reason to suspect him of doping," said the commission report.

    UCI "purposely limited the scope" of one 2005 independent investigation into Armstrong. It added that "UCI exempted Lance Armstrong from rules, failed to target test him despite the suspicions, and publicly supported him against allegations of doping, even as late as 2012".

    In 1999, Armstrong was allowed to provide a backdated doctor's prescription "to avoid sanction" during the 1999 Tour de France, when four out of 15 tests taken showed banned corticosteroids.