Former UCI President denies allegations and seeks an apology from Texan
Having been accused of covering up Lance Armstrong's drug-taking, Hein Verbruggen has responded to the claims by calling them "b---s---." He has also revealed the "misery" he has suffered since the allegations emerged in his first lengthy response since the claims were made last month over the suppression of a positive test during the 1999 Tour de France.
The former UCI president has accused Armstrong of making the accusations for financial gain a produced documentary evidence aimed at clarifying that there was no positive test. He added that there was no corruption during his reign in charge of the UCI and asked Armstrong for an apology over the accusations.
"You will never, ever find any cover-up in the UCI while I was president, and I'm sure afterwards neither. There is no bribery, whatever they say," said Verbruggen.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Verbruggen argued that the accusations were designed to reduce the life ban imposed on Armstrong by the UCI following the USADA reasoned decision which resulted in him being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. Armstrong was accused by USADA of the "most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme sport has ever seen."
Armstrong claimed last month that Verbruggen had helped suppress news of his doping in the 1999 Tour by agreeing to blame a positive test on a backdated prescription for a steroid cream to treat saddle sores. Armstrong said that he discussed the adverse finding for cortisone with Verbruggen, who said it would be a "knockout punch" for cycling after the previous year's Festina scandal and that they had to "come up with something."
Verbruggen's interview was an attempt to set the record straight as he produced an official report which he said was evidence that there was no positive test to cover up because the findings were the result of a legal cream.
Insisting that UCI rules required a prescription, but not a backdated one, Verbruggen told the newspaper, "It's a bullshit story and nothing else. Never, ever would I have had a conversation saying, 'We have to take care of this.' It might very well be that he or somebody else from the team has given me a call and my first reaction was, 'S---. We had this Festina problem and now this'. But that's a very long way from concluding we have to do something about it."
Verbruggen accused Armstrong of destroying his reputation as the American reveals the details of his doping regime. "I see it as if I'm part of a kind of industry now: it's called the Lance Armstrong industry. People are making films now. It's all part of the industry. You have a lot of people in it with a vested interest, and this interest is clearly not to know the truth," he said.
"Lance Armstrong has his own agenda and that is certainly his own personal interest, whether it is that he wants his sanctions to be reduced or whether he wants money. Usually, with Lance, there is always an interest in money. My interest is the truth."
The latest allegations over Verbruggen's complicit role in Armstrong's doping first emerged in 2010 when Armstrong's former team-mate Floyd Landis claimed his fellow American had boasted about getting a positive test covered up. Verbruggen's attempt to seek an apology via letter in June garnered no response.
Verbruggen reiterated that neither he nor the UCI supressed a positive doping test. The Dutchman insisted he would "never forget, or forgive" Armstrong for suggesting he or others at the UCI were corrupt, adding, "He caused me a lot of misery."
Verbruggen also hit back over allegations that two six-figure donations by Armstrong to the UCI were bribes or that he had inappropriate financial dealings with a backer of the American's US Postal Service team. Insisting the donations were never hidden by the UCI, Verbruggen reiterated that accepting them was a mistake in hindsight.
Verbruggen provided records and other documents during his interview to show that he lost money in investing with Thomas Weisel's firm and insisted he had no knowledge of Weisel's involvement with Armstrong's team when the investment was made on his behalf.
Verbruggen denied being too close to the American, insisting they were never friends and that he had more contact with other riders. Despite their mutual enmity, Verbruggen agreed with Armstrong that he had been unfairly demonised, even by the man who replaced him as UCI president eight years ago.
"Pat McQuaid [former UCI president] said about Lance Armstrong, 'Lance has no place in cycling'. I would never have said that. We know now that at that time, yes, there were a lot of people on EPO and he was one of them. Nobody should single him out on that basis," he said.