Verbruggen had account with Armstrong backer, says Ochowicz

US Postal Service team backer Thomas Weisel’s investment bank managed assets for then-UCI president Hein Verbruggen at the height of Lance Armstrong’s career, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

BMC general manager Jim Ochowicz, who worked as a broker for Thomas Weisel Partners at the time, told the Wall Street Journal that the firm managed some of Verbruggen’s assets between 2001 and 2004.

Ochowicz had previously managed Armstrong at Motorola and became a stockbroker at Robert Baird & Co. when the team disbanded at the end of 1996, while Verbruggen is reported to have invested with him in 1999. Ochowicz began to work for Thomas Weisel Partners investment bank in 2001 and the Verbruggen account moved with him.

"There was no hanky-panky," Ochowicz told the Wall Street Journal, adding that Weisel had no direct access to Verbruggen’s account: "I have no recollection of talking about Hein's accounts with Thom Weisel."

Verbruggen, who in 2008 told the newpspaer that he had never had a business relationship with Weisel and Ochowicz, this week said that the matter was “getting ridiculous.”

A whistleblower lawsuit reportedly filed by Floyd Landis in 2010 is believed to accuse Tailwind Sports of defrauding the US Postal Service by playing a part in covering up doping on the team. Earlier this week, it was reported that the United States Justice Department was considering joining the lawsuit.

Landis has previously accused the UCI of covering up a positive test by Armstrong at the 2001 Tour de Suisse, a charge repeatedly refuted by the governing body.

Travis Tygart, head of the US Anti-Doping Agency whose comprehensive investigation into doping at the US Postal Service team saw Armstrong stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, voiced his misgivings about the relationship between Verbruggen and Weisel.

"To have the head of the sport, who's responsible for enforcing anti-doping rules, in business with the owner of the team that won seven straight Tours de France in violation of those rules—it certainly stinks to high heaven, particularly now, given what's been exposed that happened under his watch," Tygart told the Wall Street Journal.


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