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McQuaid: Verbruggen's philosophy was "to protect the sport"

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UCI President Pat McQuaid tried to defend the UCI's record on doping

UCI President Pat McQuaid tried to defend the UCI's record on doping (Image credit: AFP)
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Antoine Vayer at the 1999 Tour de France

Antoine Vayer at the 1999 Tour de France (Image credit: AFP)

UCI president Pat McQuaid has acknowledged that his predecessor Hein Verbruggen’s first instinct when faced with cycling’s doping problems was “to protect the sport” but said that he has not followed the same philosophy during his own presidency.

McQuaid was secretly filmed in conversation with former Festina trainer Antoine Vayer as part of a France Télévisions documentary on the Lance Armstrong affair, which was screened on Thursday evening. Both McQuaid and Verbruggen had turned down requests to be interviewed for the documentary.

Vayer, who is also part of pressure group “Change Cycling Now,” met with McQuaid in October and, unbeknownst to the Irishman, filmed their conversation. In a brief excerpt screened as part of “Armstrong: The Secrets of a Godfather,” McQuaid spoke of his predecessor.

“Verbruggen did a lot for the sport, to develop the sport but his decisions were – and this is between you and me – any decisions he made in a certain period to do with doping and so forth… It certainly wasn’t that he was pro-doping or encouraging doping, but he would always protect the sport,” McQuaid said. “If he had to take a decision on something and he could see that the sport would be damaged because of that decision then he wouldn’t take the decision. I think that his was sort of his philosophy: ‘to protect the sport.’”

“I don’t fully back that but then again maybe I’m wrong,” McQuaid added.

Verbruggen was president of the UCI when Lance Armstrong reportedly recorded suspect values in doping controls at the 2001 Tour de Suisse. Armstrong was called to Switzerland the following year and reportedly told how the test for EPO worked. The American subsequently gave a two-part donation to the UCI, paid out in 2002 and 2007, totalling $125,000.