Giorgio Squinzi, the former boss of the powerhouse Mapei cycling team, today told Italian media that in 1999 then UCI president Hein Verbruggen threatened to disqualify the Italian's Mapei team following Squinzi's assertion that a top overall finish in Grand Tours was impossible without doping.
Following Lance Armstrong's recent statement that Verbruggen was instrumental in the cover-up of the American's positive test for cortisone at the 1999 Tour de France, Squinzi, while at a conference in Pescara, Italy, today spoke of his own dealings with Verbruggen and his knowledge that the UCI president was protecting Armstrong.
"Sure it happened," Squinzi told Tuttobici. "I told him in 1999 when I said that you could not get in the top five at the Grand Tours without the use of doping.
"When I said those things Verbruggen threatened to disqualify my team forever."
During Mapei's 10-year run, from 1993 to 2002, the team was a dominant force in professional cycling with 653 victories in the squad's palmares. With riders such as Franco Ballerini, Michele Bartoli, Paolo Bettini, Johan Museeuw, Tony Rominger and Andrea Tafi in the team's ranks, Mapei was a force to be reckoned with, particularly in the Spring Classics.