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UCI president Hein Verbruggen with Lance Armstrong in 2002
Former UCI President alleged to be complicit
Lance Armstrong has alleged that the former UCI President Hein Verbruggen not only knew about the former rider’s doping practices but encouraged him to cover it up.
These latest allegations follow a four part interview Armstrong gave to Cyclingnews and provide further details on how Armstrong managed to avoid positive doping tests and how the sport's governing body failed to combat cheating.
The interview with the Daily Mail included former US Postal soigner Emma O’Reilly, who met with Armstrong for the first time in 13 years. Before being fired and publicly discredited by the team for speaking out about doping, O'Reilly had witnessed US Postal provide the UCI with a backdated prescription for a saddle sore following a positive test for cortisone in the 1999 Tour de France. This backdated prescription was the specific event that Armstrong alleges Verbruggen aided in covering up.
"It's funny, these stories are so prevalent in my life. What I remember was there being a problem. I'm not sure if it was a positive but there were traces found. I don't know if it technically crossed the line. But anyway, it didn't matter. I can't remember exactly who was in the room. But Emma has a better memory than I do," Armstrong told O'Reilly and the Daily Mail.
"But 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."
"To think I am protecting any of these guys after the way they treated me, that is ludicrous," Armstrong added.
"I'm not going to lie to protect these guys. I hate them. They threw me under the bus. I'm done with them."
Verbruggen declined to comment to the Daily Mail on the allegations made by Armstrong. Verbruggen has served as an honorary president at the UCI since 2008. In a letter to national cycling federations sent earlier this month Verbruggen reiterated that he played no role in covering up positive doping results.
"I have never acted inappropriately and my conscience is absolutely clean" he said. "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."
Face-to-face with O’Reilly
The meeting between Armstrong and O’Reilly had been in the works for a number of weeks. Armstrong had been keen to contact a number of individuals that he and his entourage discredited for several years. He has attempted to reach out to Tyler Hamilton and Betsy Andreu but his meeting with O’Reilly in Florida marked the first face-to-face encounter between the disgraced former rider and one of the individuals who had been steamrollered by the Armstrong camp.
"I never expected to see Emma," Armstrong said. "I wanted to talk to her. I felt it was necessary to have a conversation because there were definitely people that got caught up in this story who deserved an apology from me. When I reached out in January it was to talk. Emma, I appreciate, wasn't ready for that. But it's good that we are [now] doing this in person."
"At the time, when I said what I said about her, I was fighting to protect a lot of positions. But it was inexcusable. It's embarrassing. I was in a conference room, giving a legal deposition, and I had no idea it was going to get out. But that doesn't excuse it. I guess you should always assume that, in that setting, the whole world will watch it the next day. It was totally humiliating for Emma. And if I saw my son do that, there would be a fucking war in our house."
O'Reilly, who now runs a successful business in the United Kingdom told the Daily Mail that, "It was a bit stilted because I guess we were two people who hadn't talked for a long time, who had more than a bit of history. But we had a chat about people we knew, about our families."
"I was thinking, he never actually used the word sorry. But I wasn't looking for an insincere apology. There are different ways of saying sorry and I felt what he did say was genuine. Now people might think I'm under Lance's spell but I'm not. I wasn't when I said what I did about him in 2004 and I'm not now. He was a jerk. He was a bully."
"But there are wider issues here and I wanted to address those, too. That said, I wanted closure with him and today I feel I have it. This part, for me, is over."
Dr Ferrari and thoughts on returning to competition
During the interview with the Daily Mail Armstrong added that controversial Dr Michele Ferrari warned him about the UCI developing a test for EPO in 2000. Ferrari has been one of the few people Armstrong has sought to protect since he admitted to doping in January of this year.
"We all assumed it was going to be business as usual but Michele said "No EPO". We continued to use some after that but not in the same way and not as much" said Armstrong.
Despite a life time ban from USADA following their Reasoned Decision Armstrong remains committed to returning to competition and believes that becoming world champion at Ironman would not be beyond him. "My performances in the races leading up to the ban told me that. And I think there is some merit in saying this is what you can do clean” said Armstrong. "I am a competitor. If there was a race tomorrow and they said you can go do it, I'd be there."