Verbruggen says UCI didn’t protect Armstrong, and they are not friends
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Monday, November 04, 2013

Verbruggen says UCI didn’t protect Armstrong, and they are not friends

by VeloNation Press at 5:42 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Former UCI chief fights back against critics in long statement

Hein VerbruggenFormer UCI president Hein Verbruggen has rejected suggestions that the governing body shielded Lance Armstrong from detection, issuing that denial as part of a long statement released yesterday defending his reputation.

The Dutchman, who was UCI president between 1991 and 2005 and who remains honorary president of the organisation, has insisted that no rider was immune from punishment if they committed doping violations, including the Texan.

“The UCI has never protected Armstrong. Any decision on Armstrong and any other racer has been taken in accordance with established facts and scientific means available at that time,” he wrote in the statement, which was published on Sunday by Tuttobici.

“The position of the UCI on the trail of corticosteroids for its champion of the 1999 Tour de France and dossier of the 2001 Tour de Suisse champions was already clarified. I will not waste your time repeating what has been said over the years.”

Verbruggen’s reputation has taken a knocking in recent years, not least because of the USADA Reasoned Decision and the questions it cast on the UCI. The Dutchman was previously friendly with Lance Armstrong and defended his reputation for many years, but now voices frustration with him.

“I recently wrote to Lance Armstrong to express the disgust aroused in me by the cynical game he plays, in refusing to make a public statement to refute the allegations made by his teammates, Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, who had said that they had nothing to fear if there were positive results, because he could ask the UCI to take matters into its hands and cover their positivity,” he wrote.

“From what I understand by reading their testimonies, Armstrong had told them he was positive, even though no evidence of a positive test has never been produced.

“If Landis and Hamilton are right, I can only assume that the objective of Armstrong was to convince both of them that had tested positive and had managed to remove the evidence in order to assure them that he could do it again, even for them.”

Verbruggen said that he is frustrated because when the allegations were first published, he wrote an email to Armstrong and received a denial then as to the claims of Landis and Hamilton.

“I asked him if he had made those statements to his teammates, emphasizing the seriousness of his words and the damage it would cause to the UCI, to my and my integrity and reputation of the anti-doping laboratory in Lausanne,” he stated.

“Armstrong immediately replied to me: ‘I have never been found positive, so I do not see why I should have to “invent” stories like this, it would be a really stupid idea. It is 100% false.”

However he described as ‘really very painful’ that Armstrong had not replied to his recent letter, nor to speak publicly about what he wrote in that 2011 email.

Verbruggen claimed credit for the fact that his former team-mates were busted during their careers, and also conceded that the UCI had made an error of judgement.

“Let us not lose sight, then, the fact that Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, who are now applauded for their courage, have been exposed and sanctioned by the UCI. And without the UCI their deception would never have emerged,” he stated.

The governing body has come under a lot of flak for accepting large sums of money from Armstrong. That plus the claims by Landis and Hamilton of a hidden positive test for the Texan in the 2001 Tour de Suisse raised suggestions of a bribe; the UCI has vigorously denied this, as did Verbruggen, but the latter now concedes an error was made.

“With the benefit of hindsight, and in light of the confession of Armstrong, I admit that it would have been wiser not to accept donations on his part,” he stated. “The UCI has clearly accepted the donation in good faith to finance its fight against doping. There is no relationship between the test and the two donations to the UCI Armstrong: Armstrong has never tested positive, there has never been any positive test to hide.”

In 2011 Verbruggen was quoted by AD.nl as stating that the American ‘never, never, never doped.’ He denied that yesterday, claiming he had been misrepresented.

“I never said that Lance Armstrong has never doped : I just said, so that everyone could understand, that Armstrong has never tested positive.”

He also denied previous suggestions that the two were close, claiming that this was an invention of the press.

“Much has been said and written about my ‘friendship’ with Lance Armstrong,” he said, then suggesting that photos of himself and the Texan together have presented an incomplete picture. “The thousands of photographs that portray me with other athletes seem to be, by strange coincidence, to have all disappeared.

“Allow me once again to be very clear. I've never been a ‘friend’ of Lance Armstrong or other riders or team managers. The only rider who has ever come to my house was Greg LeMond, who with his father came to me for help because his employer was not paying him his salary.”

However it has been widely reported that in a book published to mark his departure from the UCI in 2005, that Armstrong himself wrote that Verbruggen was ‘a great friend,’ and stated he was ‘a defender of cyclists' rights.’

‘My conscience is clean’

Verbruggen’s letter said that he had told McQuaid on June 1st 2012 that he had decided to walk away from the world of sports, including cycling, and that he wanted to enjoy his retirement.

In doing so, he is playing down suggestions that he still pulled the strings in the UCI, something that both he and McQuaid have denied repeatedly, but which a sizeable proportion of those within the sport felt was the case.

He said that he could hold his head high with what he had achieved. “I want to make it clear that I have never acted inappropriately and that my conscience is absolutely clean. With the benefit of hindsight, however, I admit that I could have done some things differently, but I do not accept that my integrity is in doubt, as has happened in recent months.”

Verbruggen used his statement to lay out what he said were his major achievements. The note, which appears to be trying to secure a better legacy for him than in recent years, stated that he had achieved the following while being president of the UCI’s predecessor FICP between 1984 and 1991: ‘The introduction of new rules for the professional cycling; the basis for a system of social assistance for the professional runners; a strengthening the role of the commisaires, and the creation of the World Cup and reorganization of the calendar to promote cycling in new countries.’

He then stated that his subsequent presidency of the UCI saw the latter being achieved: ‘the unification of the three existing cycling federations : FIAC, FICP and UCI, the settling of finance of the UCI went from a deficit of 1.5 million Swiss francs in 1991 to a surplus of 13 million Swiss francs in 2005; the creation of a staff UCI which went from 5 people located in three different locations in 1991, 75 in 2005; the construction of a World Cycling Centre, an extraordinary resource for the globalization of our sport; the establishment of an Ethics Commission, and the improvement of the position of cycling in the Olympic Movement.’

Verbruggen said that he never received a salary for his work in the UCI, including the presidency. He said that he did receive ‘reasonable and modest’ expenses which helped him to cover the cost of living of relocating to Switzerland.

However, besides that, he insisted that nothing else was received. “I have never accepted or received any commission or other payment related to my role as president,” he said.

His dismissal also presumably refers back to the 2008 report by the BBC, which suggests that $3m (£1.5m) was paid by organisers of the keirin races in Japan in the 1990s to the UCI. The event was subsequently included onto the Olympic Game profile in 1996.

It’s clear that Verbruggen’s reputation has taken a pounding, and will be under scrutiny in the months ahead when the UCI, under new president Brian Cookson, allows a new Independent Commission to investigate what went on in the past.

The outcome of that will shape how history perceives him, but his statement yesterday makes clear that he feels he did nothing wrong during his tenure, and brought a lot to the sport. He rejects anyone who finds fault with how he ran things.

“The fact that journalists and self-proclaimed ‘social media commentators’ attack without understanding the UCI that are attacking the integrity of those who paved the way in the fight against doping and enjoys an impeccable reputation, is frustrating for me and unacceptable.

“I have much to say on the subject, but I prefer to let the facts speak for themselves. Many of the charges levelled against the UCI and against me on this topic have already been answered and I will not go back.

“In March 2002, in light of the Festina affair, the Court of Appeal of Douai, after a thorough investigation and in accordance with the opinion of the public prosecutor, concluded that the UCI has done everything in its power in combating doping.

“Obviously, this ruling speaks for itself and for me is more important than the supposed scoop of editors of websites or comments and opinions on Twitter and other forums.”

 

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