Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond has urged the leaders of cycling's governing body to resign in the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping affair, calling them "the corrupt part of the sport."
LeMond posted an open letter on his Facebook page Wednesday night that asked those who care about cycling to join him in telling International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid and honourary president Hein Verbruggen to step down.
LeMond's letter came after the UCI stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France titles and banned him for life on Monday for his involvement in what a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report described as a massive doping program.
Verbruggen led world cycling from 1991-2005, the era when Armstrong won his titles. He still sits on the UCI management board and is perceived in the sport as a mentor to McQuaid, who succeeded him.
LeMond, the Tour winner in 1986, 1989 and 1990, said the problem for cycling is not drugs but corruption.
The only American remaining on the 99-year Tour list of champions told McQuaid: "Pat in my opinion you and Hein are the corrupt part of the sport."
McQuaid, an Irishman whose second term as UCI president expires in September 2013, said Monday he had no intention of resigning over the systematic drug scandals that have ruined the sport's credibility.
'Epitome of the word corruption'
Lemond maintains the problems aren't with the UCI, but with the group's leadership.
"I believe that there are many, maybe most that work at the UCI that are dedicated to cycling," he said. "They do it out of the love of the sport, but you and your buddy Hein have destroyed the sport.
"You know dam well what has been going on in cycling and if you want to deny it, then even more reasons why those who love cycling need to demand that you resign …The problem for sport is not drugs but corruption. You are the epitome of the word corruption."
The UCI and its leaders have reacted to previous corruption accusations by filing defamation suits against Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour title for doping and was a key witness in the USADA case, and Paul Kimmage, an Irish journalist and Tour rider in LeMond's era.
McQuaid has refused to back down from suing Kimmage over accusations that cycling's leaders protected Armstrong. The case is scheduled to be heard in Vevey, Switzerland, on Dec. 12.
"This is about a journalist who accused me, and my predecessor and the UCI of being corrupt. It's a straightforward defamation case," McQuaid said Monday at a media conference called to confirm sanctions against Armstrong.
'Sport's image is being shattered'
McQuaid, Verbruggen and the UCI announced this month they had won a similar defamation case against Landis — and damages of 10,000 Swiss francs ($10,667 US) each — after the former Armstrong teammate made similar allegations. Landis was not served with papers in the case and it is unclear if the judgment carries any weight outside Switzerland.
LeMond is backing Kimmage's legal battle, which has become a lightning rod for cycling fans' anger at how the sport's image is being shattered. A defense fund created by two cycling news websites has raised more than $73,000 US to pay Kimmage's legal fees.
"I would encourage anyone that loves cycling to donate and support Paul in his fight against Pat and Hein and the UCI," LeMond wrote. "I donated money for Paul's defense and I am willing to donate a lot more, but I would like to use it to lobby for dramatic change in cycling.
"The sport does not need Pat McQuaid or Hein Verbruggen."