Hein Verbruggen passes away

Former UCI president loses battle with leukaemia

Former UCI president Hein Verbruggen has died at the age of 75. He passed away on Tuesday evening after battling leukaemia.

The Dutchman was the president of cycling's governing body between 1991 and 2005, and was appointed honorary chairman following his retirement, a position he held until his death.

Verbruggen took over as president from Luis Puig in 1991 and was succeeded by Pat McQuaid. His 15 years at the helm the UCI coincided with a period in professional road cycling in which doping was rife, with the Festina Affair in 1998 seeing things reach crisis point, and Lance Armstrong going on to win seven straight Tour de France titles, all of which would later be stripped from the record books.

The repercussions continued well into Verbruggen's time as honorary president, as Armstrong's doping was laid bare by a USADA investigation in 2012. Most damaging to Verbruggen's legacy and reputation was testimony from former Armstrong teammates, Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton and Jonathan Vaughters, who all swore under oath that Armstrong told them he could have anti-doping tests nullified by the UCI.

Verbruggen often had to resort to the courts to defend his reputation from corruption allegations, notably winning a protracted and fractious defamation case against the Irish journalist Paul Kimmage.

After Brian Cookson succeeded McQuaid as UCI president, Verbruggen came close to losing his honorary title. He was criticised by the Cycling Independent Reform Commission report of 2015, but lodged a complaint with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Ethics Commission and held on to his title against Cookson's will.

Cookson publicly extended his condolences on Wednesday, writing on Twitter: “I am sad to hear of the passing of Hein Verbruggen and offer my sincere personal condolences to his family and friends.”

The Tour de Suisse is set to hold a minute's silence in honour of Verbruggen ahead of the roll-out of stage 4 on Wednesday.

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