Hein Verbruggen says Lance Armstrong's made his life "a misery"

Former UCI president hits back at American, whom he says is pursuing his own agenda

by Simon_MacMichael   December 20, 2013  

Lance Armstrong confession

Former UCI president Hein Verbruggen says that Lance Armstrong has made his life “a misery” since the latter accused him earlier this month of having helped cover up his doping.

The 72-year-old Dutchman also accuses the man last year banned from sport for life and stripped of results including the seven consecutive Tour de France titles he won between 1999 and 2005 of pursuing his own “agenda.”

Last month, Armstrong, who despite finally confessing to doping in January continued to insist that senior figures in the UCI had not colluded in helping him cover up positive anti-doping results, claimed that Verbruggen had helped him do just that in 1999.

It was the American’s first Tour de France since he returned to the sport after battling cancer, and would be the first of those seven straight wins in the sport’s biggest race – but his challenge risked being derailed after he tested positive for a banned corticosteroid.

Armstrong says that Verbruggen helped concoct the excuse of coming up with a backdated and entirely bogus prescription for a saddle sore cream containing the substance, something that the former UCI boss strongly denies.

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

“It might very well be that he or somebody else from the team has given me a call and my first reaction was, ‘Shit. We had this Festina problem [on the 1998 Tour] 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 did the testing], that is known by the UCI, the anti-doping people at the UCI? It’s ridiculous.”

He accused Armstrong of seeking to protect his own interests, and expressed his distaste of his being included as part of the story by those wishing to depict the  cyclist’s fall from grace, whether in print or on the screen.

“I see it as if I’m part of a kind of industry now: it’s called the Lance Armstrong industry,” said Verbruggen.

“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.

“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.”

Verbruggen believes that Armstrong, facing a series of lawsuits that threaten his fortune once estimated at $125 million, is still motivated by cash.

He asked: “Does he make money if he comes with a juicy story? I think it has to do with the fact he has told his team-mates he has once been positive. That’s what I believe.”

In its Reasoned Decision in the Armstrong case, published in October last year, the United States Anti Doping Agency said that donations totalling $125,000 made by the former US Postal and Astana rider to the UCI were linked to the cover-up of a suspect test for EPO during the 2001 Tour de Suisse.

Like his successor, Pat McQuaid, Verbruggen now accepts that with the benefit of hindsight, it was an error to accept that money – although most of it was only paid several years after Armstrong had promised the funds, after the UCI sent him a reminder.

Verbruggen vehemently rejects that the money was a bribe to cover up the suspect test, however, and says he will “never forget, or forgive” suggestions from Armstrong that he or other senior staff at the UCI helped cover up his doping, adding, “he caused me a lot of misery.”

Yet, the Telegraph reports that Verbruggen, never slow to threaten or indeed initiate legal action in the past, as he did against the Irish journalist, Paul Kimmage, is hesitant to sue.

“Lance Armstrong is another thing because this is in America,” he explained. “This is going to cost me a couple of million dollars.”

But he was insistent that there was nothing to hide from the period he led the UCI until McQuaid replaced him in 2005, shortly after Armstrong won that seventh and final yellow jersey.

“You will never, ever find any cover-up in the UCI while I was president, and I’m sure afterwards neither. There is no bribery, whatever they say.”

He did, however, admit he had erred in criticising people who sought to lift the veil on the culture of doping within the sport.

“When you’re so long in cycling, you suspect everything,” he reflected.

“You know it’s going on but you do not know the details. You don’t, you don’t.” H

“The suspicion against a rider like that — in this case Lance Armstrong — builds up gradually.”

He says that his very public backing of Armstrong – which continued even after USADA charged the latter in June last year – were to prevent him from being misquoted.

“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. 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.”

He does share Armstrong’s view that he was the subject of a witch hunt.

“Pat McQuaid said about Lance Armstrong, ‘Lance has no place in cycling’,” Verbruggen recalled.

“I would never have said that. We know now that at that time, yes, there were a lot of people on EPO and he was one of them. Nobody should single him out on that basis. He doped, it was forbidden, it’s cheating. But he was not the only one, that’s for sure.”

But he added: “The rules are the rules and they have to apply to anybody.”

Verbruggen maintains he has washed his hands of sport, including cycling, but he remains honorary president of the UCI.

He is sceptical about the goals of the independent commission into doping that Brian Cookson, who succeeded McQuaid in September, has ordered.

“I have clear doubts about the potential unofficial goal of this commission,” he said. “You all expect there will be a lot of corruption coming out. It will not be, and he knows that by now.”

“I’m fed up. I’m totally fed up. My reputation has suffered,” he added.

“But I don’t care very much about it. Lance, he’s an icon. I’m not. Who knows me? Only people in sport.

“And the people in sport who know me really well tell me, ‘Hein, we don’t believe this crap’. It’s embarrassing, it’s changed my life in a certain way.

“But I know what I’ve done for sport and these are facts. I took a federation from virtually bankruptcy, with four people working in three offices in three countries, hopelessly divided, to a flourishing federation with an excellent reputation as a structure.

“So, I haven’t lost one friend, nobody who is important in my life. I’ve lost nothing,” he concluded.

15 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I like the way that the UCI had to send Armstrong a reminder letter for the bung - you couldn't make it up.

Velotastic !

Too many hills, but too little time.

badback's picture

posted by badback [273 posts]
20th December 2013 - 10:48

20 Likes

Armstrong, Verbruggen, McQuaid - I care for none of them and no longer wish to hear what any of them have to say or try to weasel out of.

'It's the closest you can get to flying'
Robin Williams response when asked why he enjoyed riding so much

posted by Simmo72 [384 posts]
20th December 2013 - 11:24

20 Likes

Pot. Kettle. Black.

mr-andrew's picture

posted by mr-andrew [299 posts]
20th December 2013 - 12:20

13 Likes

the best thing that could happen for everyone is to not have to hear about any of them ever again!

posted by tomawest [10 posts]
20th December 2013 - 13:40

18 Likes

2 words - Vrijman Report. Commissioned by the UCI to whitewash the L'Equipe report on Larry's 1999 Tour positives - Vrijman just happens to be a close-associate of Hein. Coincidence, I don't think so.

Make mine an Italian with Campagnolo on the side

posted by monty dog [377 posts]
20th December 2013 - 15:24

13 Likes

Verbruggen and Armstrong are both self-serving prats. We still need the commission to go over what happened, and pave the way for a cleaner future, but nobody should pay too much attention to what these two idiots have to say.

posted by HarrogateSpa [121 posts]
20th December 2013 - 15:40

18 Likes

pathetic. he should have the decency to admit his many failings, not hide behind some made up version of reality where he " saved" pro cycling. give me strength.....

posted by philtregear [80 posts]
20th December 2013 - 16:21

10 Likes

Sob, sob ........... Crying

posted by BikerBob [115 posts]
20th December 2013 - 18:29

8 Likes

We'll my heart bleeds purple p1ss as they say around here.

Just feck off - you've damaged the sport enough already.

mooseman's picture

posted by mooseman [60 posts]
20th December 2013 - 20:06

12 Likes

it seems to me that sport is a great place to be a crook, cycling, boxing football. All full of crooks, until there is a genuine overseer-er for professional sports business it's goig to attract fraudsters and the like, after all what's the worst that could happen to them?

posted by GREGJONES [132 posts]
20th December 2013 - 20:08

22 Likes

A new tactic is to try and rally up some pity for good old Hein Verbruggen. Not so sure that will work

posted by jarredscycling [457 posts]
20th December 2013 - 21:37

19 Likes

mooseman wrote:
We'll my heart bleeds purple p1ss as they say around here.

Just feck off - you've damaged the sport enough already.

Where do you come from? Never heard that expression before.

posted by Colin Peyresourde [1186 posts]
21st December 2013 - 9:03

9 Likes

oh go dry your eyes princess and find something to spend your bribe money on...

Two peas in a wanker pod

posted by jason.timothy.jones [303 posts]
21st December 2013 - 15:34

11 Likes

2 words for this man.the second one is off.

posted by philtregear [80 posts]
21st December 2013 - 16:15

15 Likes

Armstrong Verbruggen and MavQuaid should left on the dark musty and dusty shelves of cycling history. Occasionally looked on days when you're snow bound and there is nothing better to do, like pick your nose.

If Brian Cookson's independent commission does anything let it look to the future by all means take evidence on what went wrong and how it was maintained for so long. However, do not lend fuel to the ego's of Verbruggen et al the focus should be firmly on the future and they should be excluded from playing any part in this.

THE ONLY WAY IS BIKE

posted by lushmiester [156 posts]
21st December 2013 - 19:14

15 Likes