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Verbruggen defends UCI 'warnings' to dopers

ESPN staff
January 24, 2013

Hein Verbruggen, the former president of the International Cycling Union, has defended the anti-doping policy that saw riders informed about suspicious test results during the Lance Armstrong era.

The Dutchman, who was head of the UCI between 1991 and 2005, believes the practice of approaching riders if they had recorded a suspicious test was not inappropriate.

Now the body's honorary president, Verbruggen issued a statement after Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland reported his comments that Armstrong and other riders were contacted if there were suspicions of doping.

"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," Verbruggen said.

"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."

A suspect test result from Armstrong at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland prompted the laboratory director, Dr Martial Saugy, to suggest the urine sample results were indicative of EPO use. The UCI has vehemently denied that donations subsequently made by Armstrong - totalling $100,000 (around £62,000) were related to covering up a failed test.

Verbruggen says the ideology behind the policy - what he described as a "two-pronged attack on doping"- was to warn riders about suspicious tests in order to deter them from reoffending.

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

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