Former UCI president Hein Verbruggen has denied that the sport’s governing body had made any attempt to cover up positive tests from Lance Armstrong at the 1999 Tour de France and 2001 Tour de Suisse, and said that the American “is lying.”
Armstrong returned a positive test for cortisone at the 1999 Tour, but escaped sanction when he provided a backdated prescription for the substance. In an interview with the Daily Mail in November, Armstrong said that Verbruggen had been involved in covering up the affair. "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," Armstrong said.
Speaking in an interview on Dutch television station NOS on Monday evening, Verbruggen again denied the allegation that he had colluded with Armstrong by covering up a positive test.
“I never tried to cover up positive tests. There was no agreement between Armstrong and me, or between Armstrong and the UCI. He’s lying,” Verbruggen said.
“The positive test for cortisone at the 1999 Tour de France wasn’t even carried out by the UCI but by the French ministry. The cortisone came from an ointment that he had on prescription. So it didn’t pose any problem.”
In November, Verbruggen had conceded that he "might" have had a conversation with Armstrong about the 1999 doping control. "I might have told him that the UCI needs a prescription but I am sure that was handled by our anti-doping department, not me," Verbruggen told the Associated Press on that occasion.
On Monday evening, Verbruggen also again denied the allegation levelled by two of Armstrong’s former teammates, Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis, that the UCI was involved in covering up a positive test from Armstrong at the 2001 Tour de Suisse. He reiterated his previous claim that the UCI had called on Armstrong to explain a suspect sample, but that the American had not tested positive for EPO.
“At the 2001 Tour de Suisse, there were doubts about his haematocrit level, which could have indicated EPO use. Armstrong was close to the limit but he was below it, so he was absolved,” Verbruggen said. “It would have been impossible for me to cover up a positive test as the laboratory sent the report to other bodies and not just the UCI. So Armstrong is lying.”
A three-man commission recently established by newly-elected UCI president Brian Cookson will investigate allegations of impropriety during the terms of Verbruggen and his successor Pat McQuaid, as well as carry out a wider inquiry into doping in cycling.
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