Hein Verbruggen admits UCI tipped off riders including Lance Armstrong over suspicious test results

UCI honorary president says governing body was trying "to protect clean riders" against the cheats.

by Simon_MacMichael   January 24, 2013  

UCI logo on white

Former UCI president Hein Verbruggen has admitted that the governing body tipped off riders including Lance Armstrong  about suspicious anti-doping test results.

The Dutchman, who remains honorary president of the governing body that he led between 1991 and 2005, made the revelation in a statement issued in response to an article in Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland.

"It used to be the UCI's policy – and indeed also of other federations – to discuss atypical blood test results, or other test results, with the riders concerned," he explained.

"Riders who were doping [but who had yet to fail a test] were effectively warned that they were being watched and that they would be targeted in future with the aim of getting them to stop doping.

"However, if the atypical test results were genuinely not caused by doping, the rider also had the opportunity to have a medical check."

According to Verbruggen, the UCI drew up its policy to tell riders about suspicious tests "after some considerable debate and deliberation.

"Its purpose was to protect clean riders against competitors who might be doping, rather than to let those clean riders continue to be put at a disadvantage until such time that the drug cheats could be caught,” he claimed.

“It was intended to be a two-pronged attack on doping: prevention both by dissuasion and repression."

In the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal, Verbruggen has come under a huge amount of criticism with many believing that the UCI helped protect the rider, including after a suspect test for EPO during the 2001 Tour de Suisse.

According to Dr Martial Saugy, who runs the Swiss anti-doping laboratory that tested the sample concerned, the UCI arranged for Armstrong to visit the facility to see how tests were conducted.

At the same time, Armstrong pledged donations totalling $125,000 to the UCI. While those payments have long been public knowledge and indeed confirmed by current UCI president Pat McQuaid, it had been assumed that the rider decided to offer the money himself.

However, in his interview with Oprah Winfrey last week, Armstrong said that it had been the UCI that had requested the money from him.

Even as allegations of doping mounted against Armstrong, Verbruggen was a vociferous supporter of the American.

In May 2011, according to USADA’s Reasoned Decision in the case, Verbruggen said: “There is nothing. I repeat again: Lance Armstrong has never used doping. Never, never, never. I say this not because I am a friend of his, because that is not true. I say it because I'm sure."

Separately, French newspaper Le Monde this week has said that Armstrong should have been thrown off the 1999 Tour de France – the year of the first of the seven victories he has now been stripped of – because of breaking rules regarding therapeutic use exemptions.

Armstrong tested positive for a corticosteroid during the race, but later produced a backdated – and, by his own admission, fictitious – prescription from US Postal’s team doctor for cream to treat a saddle sore.

Le Monde published a picture of the doping control document from the time that showed that there was no mention of such a product being used – and said that Armstrong should therefore have been disqualified from the race.

Separately, Verbruggen has defended business dealings in 2001 with an investment firm owned by Thom Weisel, a major backer of Tailwind Sports, the company behind the US Postal team.

Two years earlier, Verbruggen had given what he describes as “a small amount of money” to former Motorola manager Jim Ochowicz, who was working as a broker at the time.

Ochowicz, who would serve as USA Cycling’s president from 2002 to 2008 and is now president of the BMC Racing team, moved to Weisel’s firm two years later.

However, Verbruggen insists he did not know who Weisel was at the time – a claim that is hard to believe, given not only the team’s status in the sport at the time, but also the fact that in 2000 it had been Weisel who had organised a bailout of USA Cycling.

He told Vrij Nederland: "‘But even if I had known [who Weisel was], I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.’

10 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Where there's smoke.....

Velotastic !

Too many hills, but too little time.

badback's picture

posted by badback [298 posts]
24th January 2013 - 12:35


Which other federations discussed atypical results with their athletes? None that would be regarded as doing well at fighting doping, I bet. Tennis?

Such a stupid idea. It allowed cheats to calibrate their doping to ensure that they stayed within the envelope of tolerated test results.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1452 posts]
24th January 2013 - 12:42


Gently, gently, catchy monkey!

ARSE! Angry

bikeandy61's picture

posted by bikeandy61 [495 posts]
24th January 2013 - 13:53


In a word......'bent'.

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

posted by Simmo72 [552 posts]
24th January 2013 - 14:01


"Independent" Commission take note.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
24th January 2013 - 15:05


"The money was just resting in my account"


aslongasicycle's picture

posted by aslongasicycle [370 posts]
24th January 2013 - 19:02


Absolutely rotten to the core, throw the whole lot out and start again.

Ah, but that was then

posted by Pitstone Peddler [104 posts]
24th January 2013 - 19:25


strange definition of "protect" Sick


posted by Rupert49 [39 posts]
24th January 2013 - 20:26


aslongasicycle wrote:
"The money was just resting in my account"

Ha ha ha! Quite. As Bishop Brennan (or Father Jack) might say "Arse!"

And still they hang on like two limpets in a tide pool.

jugster's picture

posted by jugster [42 posts]
24th January 2013 - 23:49


I just wonder what the morale is amongst an organisation which has been shown to give a head up to potential dopers, that starts Commissions but hamstrings them in their remit and powers, that doesn't want truth and reconciliation but now does and which has almost no support from grassroots supporters and national bodies. How is this seen by other countries I wonder. Could it be that Fat Pat is hanging on for another year's salary before agreeing some nice exit package which will include how much his actions are questioned?

If I was only half as good as I am in my own mind.

posted by JulesW [36 posts]
25th January 2013 - 13:26