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Hein Verbruggen insists he has nothing to hide

Former UCI president rejects Lance Armstrong's claims of helping instigate cover-up...

Former UCI president Hein Verbruggen claims he has nothing to hide and says that Lance Armstrong’s claim that he helped cover up a positive drugs test at the 1999 Tour de France is a “ridiculous story.”

Armstrong made the allegation in an interview published by the Daily Mail on Monday.

He said that Verbruggen, who served as UCI president from 1991 to 2005, had helped concoct a plan for the rider’s positive test for a corticosteroid to be explained away by a backdated prescription for a saddle sore cream containing the banned substance.

In an Associated Press report published by USA Today, Verbruggen insisted: "It's a ridiculous story and, in addition to that, it was not a positive case.

“He must have reasons to come up with these allegations. I don't know what…  maybe to do with his court cases."

The 72-year-old Dutchman said he may have spoken to Armstrong at the time.

"I might have told him that the UCI needs a prescription, but I am sure that was handled by our anti-doping department, not me," he explained.

"According to our rules, it [the prescription] could be done afterwards."

In his Daily Mail interview, Armstrong maintained that news of the positive test had sent Verbruggen into a panic, with the previous year’s Tour de France having been overshadowed by the Festina scandal.

"The real problem was, the sport was on life support," said Armstrong. "And Hein just said, 'This is a real problem for me, this is the knockout punch for our sport,  so we've got to come up with something.'"

Verbrugge said that results from tests conducted on Armstrong on four separate days were consistent with his having used an ointment, and that French authorities accepted the prescription.

Armstrong’s allegations will almost certainly be among the issues addressed by the inquiry that current UCI president Brian Cookson is setting up into doping, including whether the governing body was involved in a cover-up.

But Verbruggen, who has left his position as UCI honorary president since Cookson’s election in September, said: "I have never been afraid of any investigation commission. I will participate in everything and I will be never be found [guilty of] anything."

He questioned Armstrong’s motives for wanting to be a witness at any inquiry, however, saying: “He wants a 'Truth and Reconciliation Commission.' He wants a commission to find out that he was not the only one [doping], and that he was forced to do it."

As allegations against Amstrong began to mount up even ahead of the United States Anti-Doping Agency launching the investigation that would result in his being banned from sport for life and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, Verbruggen continued to defend him.

In 2011, reacting to claims by Tyler Hamilton that the UCI had helped Armstrong cover up a suspect test for EPO at the Tour de Suisse, Verbruggen said: “There is nothing. 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."

But in a book given to Verbruggen when he stepped down as president of the UCI in 2005, Armstrong described him as “a great friend,” adding, “thanks for everything."

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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