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UCI did not force cheats to dope: chief

GENEVA -- World cycling chief Pat McQuaid has hit out at suggestions that International Cycling Union (UCI) officials should face sanctions in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.

The UCI on Monday effectively erased Armstrong from the cycling history books when the body decided not to appeal against sanctions handed to the American by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

A damning report by USADA last week concluded that Armstrong helped orchestrate the most sophisticated doping program in the history of sport.

He will now lose all of his results from 1998, the year he resumed racing after successfully battling cancer, and a year before the first of his seven consecutive yellow jersey wins.

As well as failing to catch the American in over 200 doping controls, former UCI President Hein Verbruggen has also come under fire for alleged complicity in Armstrong's ability to evade the authorities.

Calls have been made for Verbruggen, an honorary president of the UCI and a senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, to resign.

Scot David Millar, who became a symbol of clean sport after completing a two-year doping ban in 2006, said Monday the UCI should take responsibility for the Armstrong scandal.

“They always denied there was a problem and even now they are denying they had knowledge of it,” said the Tour de France stage winner.

“The buck has to stop somewhere and the UCI have to assume that responsibility.”

McQuaid, however, believes riders convicted of doping also have themselves to blame.

That includes Millar and the former teammates of Armstrong at U.S. Postal (USPS) who in testimony have admitted to doping.

Asked if he unreservedly supported Verbruggen, McQuaid told AFP: “It's not a case of me supporting him or not. There's been nothing proven in the USADA case that he did anything wrong.

“With respect, I think some of the athletes who are calling for his resignation, what they're doing is trying to shirk their own responsibility.

“These are adults who took the decision to dope. And I don't think that's anybody else's fault but their own.

“Mr. Verbruggen didn't hold David Millar's hand when he was sticking a needle into himself, no more than he held any of the USPS riders' hands when they were sticking needles into themselves.

“They took that decision, and then they did it in a very covert way, trying to beat the system, at all times working to beat the system.

“I don't think you can blame the authorities for what these guys were doing and I think it's wrong for these guys to try and do that.”

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International Cycling Union (UCI) President Pat McQuaid gestures during a press conference announcing the decision about the fate of U.S. cyclist Lance Armstrong, in Geneva, Monday, Oct. 22. (AFP)

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