Verbruggen stands his ground

Although the 64 year-old Dutchman officially gave his seat at the UCI's headquarters to Irishman Pat McQuaid a few months ago, Hein Verbruggen still expresses the same opinions on cycling matters and associated institutions during the last 14 years of his presidency. Speaking to Swiss newspaper 24 Heures, Verbruggen, who has now moved on to supervise preparations for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing with the IOC, continued to strike the same tone, undoubtedly challenged by a curious journalist.

"I depend on no one, which is why I can always speak my mind," quoted the paper for its headline of the interview, published on November 30, in which Verbruggen did just that. Asked about the polemics which constantly surrounded his term at the UCI, Verbruggen said, "The French-speaking Swiss may get the impression [that this is so], because they read L'Equipe too much and because this sports tabloid (sic) always shot at me because I'm not French. I have excellent relations except for them and a few others."

These "few others" also include the WADA, whose chairman Dick Pound has criticised the UCI and Verbruggen several times over his anti-doping policies. "I can't deny this conflict, as Dick Pound spends his time insulting me, using every opportunity that presents itself, but I don't know why. Give me one other sport that has done more than we have in this matter, with the medical monitoring, the blood controls and the funds put into research. The Agency acts like a police officer, where it should in fact help us!" Verbruggen said.

Relations between Tour de France organiser Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) and the UCI have dropped to a new low, the French company refusing to integrate Verbruggen's greatest achievement, the ProTour calendar, along with its Italian and Spanish counterparts. "The directors don't wish to remain in their role as organisers, and on this day, I'm very pessimistic," the vice-president of the UCI continued. "I'm not ready to give in, because if I accept that cycling is nothing without the Tour, I might as well transfer our headquarters from Aigle to Paris and give them the keys to the sport. The Tour de France should think carefully about the consequences, because without our professional teams, they're risking organising the next edition for junior riders."

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