Weisel and Verbruggen deny Armstrong’s accusations against them
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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Weisel and Verbruggen deny Armstrong’s accusations against them

by VeloNation Press at 4:51 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Two former backers of Texan turn on him after he said they were aware of doping

Lance ArmstrongTwo of those who have been accused by Lance Armstrong of having knowledge of his doping have denied the claims, protesting their innocence and seeking to dismiss his accusations against them.

Wealthy financier Tom Weisel, who owned the US Postal Service team with which Armstrong won six of his seven now-stripped Tour de France titles, has rubbished the Texan’s suggestion that he was fully aware of what was going on behind the scenes at the team.

Ditto for former UCI president Hein Verbruggen, who Armstrong said helped him overcome a positive test result during the 1999 Tour.

Armstrong’s claim about Weisel was contained in court documents relating to the Qui Tam whistleblower case launched by former team-mate Floyd Landis in 2010 and joined by the US Government.

That document states: “In November 2013, Lance Armstrong stated in non-public responses to written interrogatories issued in connection with another lawsuit that he believes ‘Mr. Weisel was aware of doping by the USPS Team and in professional cycling in general.’

“Armstrong said his belief is ‘based on, inter alia, the following information: in early 1997, the year before Armstrong joined the USPS team, under Weisel’s management, the team doctor was fired and Dr. Pedro Celaya and Jonny Weltz were hired to make sure the USPS team qualified for the Tour de France.

“Scott Mercier and Tyler Hamilton described Weisel’s conscious decision to implement a program on the USPS team in order to successfully compete with other elite European teams, virtually all of which had similar doping programmes.”

In addition to that, the same court documents showed former US Postal Service rider Hamilton was also convinced that Weisel knew what was going on.

“In early December 2013, Tyler Hamilton indicated to Mr. Landis he was so certain that Thomas Weisel knew and approved of the USPS team doping program that he would ‘tattoo it on his arm.’ Among other bases for his belief, Mr. Hamilton has stated to relator Landis that Gorski worked very closely with Mr. Weisel in managing the team, and that Gorski had made statements to Mr. Hamilton reflecting his awareness of doping on the USPS team as early as the late 1990s.”

Asked about the claims by the SFGate website, Weisel himself did not reply to requests for comment, but his attorney Robert Sacks denied the allegations.

“Mr. Weisel unequivocally denies being aware that Mr. Armstrong and other cyclists were doping. He has said that before and continues to say it now,” stated Sacks yesterday.

“These are not factual allegations. If you read Armstrong's statement, he sensed Mr. Weisel must have known about it, but no facts were offered. Not him, not Landis, not Tyler Hamilton (another team cyclist cited in the documents) have offered any actual facts. If the riders can't offer the facts, then they don't exist.”

Armstrong denied doping for many years but was handed a lifetime ban by the US Anti Doping Agency last year when he declined to fight the charges against him. He finally admitted PED use in an interview with Oprah Winfrey conducted in January of this year; soon afterwards, Weisel told the New York Times that he rejected any suggestions that he was involved, or knew of, the doping.

“I did not know until very recently that Lance Armstrong had engaged in doping while riding for the team. Any allegation that I was aware of or condoned or supported doping by any team rider is false,” he said then.

One month ago today the US District court judge Robert Wilkins said that he would make a decision within thirty days in relation to the case. He had been asked to rule whether or not the Qui Tam trial should proceed. He said then that while he might dismiss some of the defendants from the case, he was unlikely to do so for all of them.

Once his decision is announced, it will be clear if Weisel will join those who must defend themselves in the trial.

Verbruggen: ‘It’s a bullshit story and nothing else’

Meanwhile former UCI president Hein Verbruggen has blasted Armstrong, seeking to discredit the rider he previously described as a friend and who he said in a 2011 interview had ‘never, never, never doped.’

He spoke to the Telegraph in Lausanne, showing the newspaper a report which he claimed proved that there was no positive test to cover up as the results of that test came as the result of a legal cream.

It related to Armstrong’s positive result for corticosteroids during the 1999 Tour de France.

In November the Texan told former team soigneur Emma O’Reilly and the Daily Mail that the-then UCI president was involved in ensuring he wasn’t thrown out of the race.

“The real problem was, the sport was on life support. And Hein [Verbruggen] 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,” stated Armstrong.

It was the first time he had directly implicated the Dutchman.

“It’s a bullshit story and nothing else. Never, ever would I have had a conversation saying, ‘We have to take care of this’,” Verbruggen told the Telegraph.

“It might very well be that he or somebody else from the team has given me a call and my first reaction was, ‘S---. We had this Festina problem and now this’. But that’s a very long way from concluding we have to do something about it.

“How can I take care of something that is known already by the laboratory, that is known already by the French Ministry [which conducted the test], that is known by the UCI, the anti-doping people at the UCI? It’s ridiculous.”

Verbruggen’s reputation has taken a number of blows in recent years, partially due to his defence of Armstrong against doping accusations over the years. He conceded last year that the Texan had provided tests that indicated the likely use of EPO. However he had continued to deny any possibility that the rider was doping in the years afterwards.

“I see it as if I’m part of a kind of industry now: it’s called the Lance Armstrong industry,” he told the Telegraph, seeking to explain why he is being implicated at this point. “People are making films now. It’s all part of the industry. You have a lot of people in it with a vested interest, and this interest is clearly not to know the truth,” he said.

“Lance Armstrong has his own agenda and that is certainly his own personal interest, whether it is that he wants his sanctions to be reduced or whether he wants money. Usually, with Lance, there is always an interest also in money. My interest is the truth.”

He added that he would “never forget, or forgive” Armstrong for suggesting he and the UCI were corrupt. “He caused me a lot of misery,” he stated.

However he ruled out suing him, saying that it would cost too much to do so in America.

Ironically, last year Verbruggen and former UCI president Pat McQuaid launched a legal case in the Swiss courts against Paul Kimmage.

He did not explain why he can sue Kimmage in Switzerland but not Armstrong.

Verbruggen, McQuaid and others will have their roles examined when the UCI, which is now led by Brian Cookson, allows an Independent Commission to investigate the past actions of the governing body in an inquiry due to take place in the next couple of months.

That commission will be able to assess their actions and statements and to reach a conclusion.

Verbruggen said that he had reservations and ‘clear doubts’ about the commission and that he had written to Cookson saying he was concerned that he would become a scapegoat. “You all expect there will be a lot of corruption coming out,” Verbruggen said, apparently referring to the media. “It will not be, and he knows that by now.”

“There is an IC [independent commission] which is an independent investigation. They go into the books, they see if there is any payments,” he said. “They can go in my books, my banks, everything.”

However it remains clear that he defended Armstrong’s reputation for several years, despite knowing he went close to positive tests for EPO in both 2001 and 2002.

Asked by the Telegraph why he had done so, Verbruggen sought to justify his position.

“I’m absolutely sure the next day it would be like this in the paper: ‘Doubts cast by Verbruggen on Armstrong’. That’s something I was not particularly keen on,” he said.

“I hadn’t said that about anybody, ever. Now they blame me — ‘You should’ve said that’. But I don’t think anybody would. You don’t. You can’t.”

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