Verbruggen denies accusations he was part of cover up
Former UCI president implicated by disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong
Hein Verbruggen: “I have never acted in an inappropriate manner and my conscience is clear.” Photograph: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
The former UCI president Hein Verbruggen could be called before the independent commission investigating cycling’s doping past after the disgraced former Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong directly implicated him in a cover-up of his test for corticosteroids during the 1999 Tour de France.
Armstrong, speaking to the Daily Mail as he prepares the ground for a possible appearance before the commission, and amid debate over whether his lifetime ban should be reduced if he tells all he knows, said that Verbruggen told him and his team to “come up with something”. Verbruggen recently denied any inappropriate behaviour and stated squarely that “the UCI never protected Armstrong”.
In an email exchange with the Daily Telegraph on Monday Verbruggen reiterated that he had nothing to hide and was more than happy to be investigated. He wrote: “An IC [independent commission] has never been a problem for me. There was nothing to cover up.” In a separate text message sent to the Dutch TV channel NOS, he added: “Since when does one believe Lance Armstrong?” Verbruggen went on to say: “His story is illogical because it was not a positive/anti-doping offence, in the opinion of the competent authority. That authority was not the UCI, but the French Ministry. After allegations a year back of a large-scale complicity at the UCI over doping by Lance Armstrong and his team, we are now back to a cortisone-case from 1999 that wasn’t even from the UCI.”
The UCI issued a statement which suggested Verbruggen could be invited to appear before the commission being set up by its new president, Brian Cookson. The statement read: “The UCI’s Independent Commission of Inquiry is in the process of being set up and we are in advanced discussions with stakeholders on its terms of reference to allow full investigation of any allegations relating to doping and wrongdoing at the UCI.
“The commission will invite individuals to provide evidence and we would urge all those involved to come forward and help the commission in its work in the best interests of the sport of cycling.”
At the time of Armstrong’s positive test cycling was recovering from the Festina doping scandal of 1998 and banning the yellow jersey of the Tour in the 1999 race would have been highly damaging to the sport. Armstrong stated: “The real problem was, the sport was on life support. And Hein just said: ‘This is a real problem for me. This is the knockout punch for our sport, the year after Festina, so we’ve got to come up with something.’ So we backdated the prescription.”