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UCI president Hein Verbruggen with Lance Armstrong in 2002
Account with Armstrong's backer not a conflict of interests, says former UCI president
Former UCI president Hein Verbruggen has admitted that he had assets managed by the investment bank of Thom Weisel, backer of Lance Armstrong’s US Postal Service team, but denied that it constituted a conflict of interests.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that Verbruggen had invested with Armstrong’s former Motorola manager Jim Ochowicz in 1999, when Ochowicz worked as a broker for Robert Baird & Co. When Ochowicz later began to work for Thomas Weisel Partners in 2001, the Verbruggen account moved with him.
"I have given Jim a small amount of money to manage for me, and he moved to Thom Weisel,” Verbruggen told the Associated Press. “I didn't even know who Thom Weisel was. There is no relationship whatsoever. You give a guy that you like a small amount of money to manage and 12 years later, I end up in a doping case."
Verbruggen corroborated the Wall Street Journal story, which said that he held the brokerage account between 1999 and 2004. He stepped down as president of the UCI in 2005, the same year that Armstrong claimed the last of his since rescinded seven Tour de France victories.
US Anti-Doping Agency head Travis Tygart questioned the nature of the relationship between Verbruggen and Thom Weisel, who was a backer of Tailwind Sports the management company behind the US Postal Service team.
“Nothing illegal has happened, or ever did. The comments of Mr. Tygart, I would call them cynical almost," Verbruggen told the Associated Press, adding that he would be prepared to provide information on the transaction to the independent commission established to report on the UCI’s management of the Armstrong affair.
News of Verbruggen’s dealings with Thomas Weisel Partners comes ahead of Thursday evening’s broadcast of Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Lance Armstrong, in which Armstrong is reported to have confessed to doping during his career.