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WADA slams UCI ahead of Armstrong interview

(Reuters) - Doping and cycling officials were embroiled in a feud over who was to blame for widespread doping within the sport just hours Lance Armstrong breaks his silence over his alleged drug use in a television interview on Thursday.

In a scathing attack, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) chief John Fahey blasted the International Cycling Union (UCI), calling the independent commission set up by the governing body to look into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in cycling a "useless exercise."

"It has again become apparent that rather than deal with the obvious problems that exist within the sport of cycling, the UCI once again would like to avoid its responsibilities and instead seek to blame WADA and others," Fahey said in a statement.

Armstrong, who is widely expected to come clean about his drug use in a two-part interview with Oprah Winfrey to be aired over Thursday and Friday, could also shed light on how he was able to escape detection from drug-testers while winning a record seven Tour de France titles.

The American cyclist was stripped of his victories last year after an investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency found him to be the ringleader of "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen."

In December, the UCI set up an independent commission to look into allegations and statements made in the USADA decision on Armstrong concerning the complicity of the UCI and its officials in doping and the manner in which cycling's governing body has conducted its anti-doping program.

WADA has refused to take part in the inquiry, saying the commission was doomed to failure in part because of its refusal to agree to some form immunity for witnesses who come forward.

"There is no question that the system put into place by Armstrong and others was sophisticated, but the USADA decision raises many other questions that remain unanswered," said Fahey.

"For the UCI to say it knew nothing about the systemic doping in its sport and could do nothing more is precisely what the independent commission should be inquiring into, provided all the evidence is made available to it.

"WADA has no confidence that this will occur."

During one of their recent verbal skirmishes, the UCI shot back at WADA claiming that part of the problem in catching drug-cheats was WADA's ineffective testing.

WADA acknowledged that the science has limits but it also requires proper implementation.

"It has become typical of the UCI to point fingers at others when yet another doping controversy hits the sport of cycling," said Fahey.

"The way controls are undertaken by the responsible anti-doping organization (in this situation the UCI), the alleged insider information provided in this sport to the cyclists, the suggestion of warnings being given to cyclists before the testers arrive ... can clearly reduce the effectiveness of a testing program and lead to negative test results."

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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