Former UCI President Hein Verbruggen has hit back at Lance Armstrong after the American alleged that Verbruggen helped to cover up a positive test corticosteroids during the 1999 Tour de France.
Armstrong made the claim during an interview with the Daily Mail. He stated that "the real problem was, the sport was on life support. And Hein just said, 'This is a real problem for me, this is the knockout punch for our sport, the year after Festina, so we've got to come up with something'. So we backdated the prescription."
Vergbruggen was the head of the sport’s governing body throughout Armstrong’s seven year winning stretch at the Tour de France and frequently battled with the media over how doping ought to be covered. In 1999, with the Festina affair fresh in the memories of the media, fans and sponsors, Verbruggen is alleged to have helped Armstrong create a post-dated medical document that upheld Armstrong lie that the cortisone for which he had tested positive was being used for a saddle sore. Armstrong went on to win the Tour of renewal as it was subsequently dubbed.
After Armstrong’s allegations at the weekend, a timely reminder of how much he knew of cycling’s past, Verbruggen hit back. His phone was off when Cyclingnews attempted to contact him, but he the Dutchman, who in 2011 claimed that Armstrong ‘never, never, never’ took drugs, sent a text message to NOS, a Dutch television station.
“Since when does anyone believe Lance Armstrong? When with Oprah Winfrey he said he never settled something with the UCI? Or since he makes movies and interviews and hints that there are juicy stories to come?
“His story is illogical because it was not a positive anti-doping offence, in the opinion of the competent authority. That authority was not the UCI, but the French Ministry. After allegations a year back of a large-scale complicity at the UCI over doping by Lance Armstrong and his team, we are now back to a cortisone-case from 1999 that wasn’t even from the UCI. Sincerely, Hein Verbruggen.”
Armstrong's allegations have already prompted the UCI's new President Brian Cookson into stating that the former president could be asked to answer questions in front of an independent inquiry.