• Cycling

Former UCI president hits back at 'b******t' Armstrong claims

ESPN staff
December 18, 2013
Lance Armstrong admitted to cheating his way to his Tour de France titles at the start of the year © PA Photos

Former UCI president Hein Verbruggen has hit back at Lance Armstrong's claims that he helped the disgraced rider cover up a positive doping test in 1999.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and given a lifetime cycling ban after the US Anti-Doping Agency found him guilty of drug-taking, labelling him a "serial" cheat who led "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen."

The American at the start of 2013 admitted to doping his way to all seven of his Tour titles, and last month suggested that Verbruggen, UCI president at the time, assisted him in hiding a positive doping test in 1999. Armstrong also claimed that Verbruggen said the news would be a "knockout punch" for the sport after the Festina scandal of 1998, where the entire team was kicked out of the Tour de France after their riders had been given performance-enhancing drugs.

However, Verbruggen has strongly denied those claims, and in an interview with the Telegraph, he said: "It's a b******t story and nothing else. 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, '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 says the accusations are damaging his reputation. "I see it as if I'm part of a kind of industry now: it's called the Lance Armstrong industry. 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."

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