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UCI president Hein Verbruggen with Lance Armstrong in 2002
Open letter addresses Armstrong, doping and UCI finances during his tenure
Former UCI President Hein Verbruggen has written an open letter about various aspects of his time as UCI President and responded to what he called a "harsh media campaign against" him. It was published on Sunday by tuttobiciweb.it. In the letter, he addressed his own integrity, relations with Lance Armstrong, the fight against doping and the UCI's finances.
Verbruggen, who claims to have completely stepped away from sports politics, said, "I have never acted inappropriately and that my conscience is absolutely clean. With the benefit of hindsight, however, I admit that I could have done some things differently, but I do not accept that my integrity is in doubt, with what has happened in recent months. As you all know, even if there is a President, decisions are made collegially, as much by the management committee and by the Congress."
Verbruggen began his letter by highlighting some accomplishments from his tenure at the head of the UCI, pointing to his creation of the World Cup and re-organisation of the calendar, the merger of the FIAC, FICP and UCI, and the conversion of the UCI budget from a deficit to a surplus, as well as the construction of the World Cycling Centre. He also claimed that the UCI had made serious attempts to combat doping during his presidency.
"I have never acted inappropriately and I have a clear conscience. No facts, no evidence contradict this truth," said Verbruggen. "I refuse to engage in a silly debate and stoop to the level of those who criticize me and believe that I have to prove my innocence: in fact they are the ones who can not prove that I have done something wrong."
"I am exasperated and tired of this endless chain of journalists who delight to fuel conspiracy theories, disguising themselves as 'investigative journalists' to sell their latest book or inflate their egos or their careers."
Verbruggen went on to point out that while working full time or nearly full time as UCI President, he never received a salary although he did receive some cost of living expenses when he relocated to Switzerland.
Verbruggen says Armstrong was just another rider
Finally, Verbruggen addressed his relationship with Lance Armstrong, first noting that it was normal for him to pose for photos with top riders. "The thousands of photographs that portray me with other athletes seem to have, by strange coincidence, all disappeared."
Verbruggen wrote that his relationship with Armstrong was strictly professional. "Allow me once again to be very clear. I've never been a 'friend' of Lance Armstrong or other riders or team manager. The only rider who has ever came to my house was Greg LeMond, who with his father came to me for help because his employer was not paying him his salary."
"I never said that Lance Armstrong has never doped: I just said, so that everyone could understand, that Armstrong has never tested positive."
That contradicts what Verbruggen told AD.nl about Armstrong in May 2011, however, when he said, "I repeat again: Lance Armstrong has never used doping. Never, never, never. And I say this not because I am a friend of his, because that is not true. I say it because I'm sure."
According to Verbruggen, such statements by him did not constitute a cover-up. "The UCI never protected Armstrong. Any decision on Armstrong and any other racer has been taken in accordance with established facts and scientific means available at that time."
Verbruggen also said that he had written to Armstrong to dispure the allegations of Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, who said that Armstrong had told them he could get the UCI to cover up any positive test results that might happen. "If the allegations of [Floyd] Landis and [Tyler] Hamilton are right, I can only assume that the objective of Armstrong was to convince both of them that they had tested positive and he had managed to remove the evidence so as to assure them that he could do it again, even for them," said Verbruggen.
Last year, the head of the Lausanne anti-doping lab confirmed that the UCI had queried Armstrong about a suspicious sample provided at the 2001 Tour de Suisse, although he insisted that the sample was not positive for EPO, but "suspect."
Verbruggen said that Armstrong had emailed him in June of 2011 to say that he had not told his teammates that he had a positive test covered up.
Verbruggen defended the UCI, saying that without cycling's governing body, the infractions of Landis and Hamilton would never have come out and been punished. "Without the UCI, their deception would never have emerged," he wrote.
Armstrong made two donations to the UCI during Verbruggen's presidency, ostensibly to support anti-doping efforts. He signed a personal cheque for $25,000 in 2002, while his management company Capital Sports and Entertainment made a second payment of $100,000 in 2005.
"With the benefit of hindsight, and in light of the confession of Armstrong, I admit that it would have been wiser not to accept donations on his behalf. The UCI clearly accepted the donation in good faith to finance its fight against doping. There is no relationship between the test and the two donations to the UCI Armstrong: Armstrong has never tested positive, there has never been any positive test to hide."
Verbruggen ended his letter by saying, "I've never been afraid to defend my name and my reputation in court: I have never lost a case. I invite you to seriously question how I could do it, if I had something to hide. There comes a time when enough is enough. I reached this point. If, after reading this letter, you continue to doubt my role in UCI, too bad, I will not do anything to make you change your mind."
"Starting today, these problems do not concern me any more and, despite what has happened over the last year, it is with a sense of pride and satisfaction that I look back at everything I've done in my voluntary service to cycling."