Dear Mr. Armstrong:
I write in response to the open letter that you sent to this publication as well as several others.
First, let me say how pleased I am to hear the commitment that the winner of the last five Tours de France has made to the fight against doping in sport. I’m also happy to see that you acknowledge that cycling “had its problems.” While it’s tempting to believe that cycling has cleaned up its act, as you so claim, recent incidents suggest otherwise. As an example, the recent Cofidis affair, where certain cyclists and their entourages were found to allegedly be trafficking in doping substances, leads me to believe there remains a great deal of work to be done.
In the interview that I gave the newspaper Le Monde in January, I simply pointed out that cycling, like other sports, faces substantial difficulties in ridding sport of doping, despite efforts made by the International Cycling Federation and others. The Cofidis affair is but the latest in a long line of incidents, and other persons, including Jean-Francois Lamour, France’s sports minister, have also expressed their concern and urged the world of cycling to clean up its house as quickly as possible.
As the organization charged with coordinating the fight against doping in sport, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) must point out the problem areas and sports and sound the alarm when necessary. We have done it in the past, for cycling and other sports, and I, as the president of this organization, will ensure that we will continue to do so as long as doping exists.
We are at a particularly crucial juncture in the fight against doping in sport. For the first time, the sports world and governments are joining in this fight through WADA. Governments have tools at their disposal that sports organizations do not, including the ability to fight trafficking of doping substances across borders, which was demonstrated in the Festina and Cofidis affairs. The World Anti-Doping Code, the first document harmonizing rules regarding doping across all sports and all countries, has been accepted and is being implemented by sports organizations this year. Governments will follow by 2006 through an international convention. UCI is, unfortunately, one of the few international sports federations that has yet to sign this important document or to provide a clear indication as to when it will do so.
Finally, at no time have I spoken out personally against you or your accomplishments, which makes your strongly-worded personal attack somewhat of a surprise. If, indeed, we share the same desire to see all sports free of drugs, I should have thought that we should both be supporting a harmonization of the anti-doping rules and that you should not be making a claim, about your sport generally, that suggests the problem is all but solved.
At any rate, the message I prefer to take from your letter is your strong commitment to making sure your sport is clean. The future of sport depends on acknowledging the problem of doping and coming together – athletes, governments, sports organizations, coaches, trainers and sponsors – to find a solution. WADA, more than ever, counts on athletes like yourself and international federations such as UCI to help with this fight.
Richard W. Pound, WADA President