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Despite the strong criticism of his UCI presidency expressed in the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) report, Hein Verbruggen has issued a statement claiming that the inquiry has essentially cleared his name.
“I have studied the CIRC report and I am satisfied that it confirms what I have always said: that there have never been any cover-ups, complicity or corruption in the Lance Armstrong case (or, indeed, in any other doping cases), nor did Armstrong make any payments relating to the Vrijman Report,” he wrote.
“The wild conspiracy theories and accusations have all been properly debunked once and for all. I am pleased that this report confirms my complete innocence concerning these accusations which have been levelled at me in the past.”
The report was released on Monday and while it did indeed find no evidence that Armstrong had paid for the Vrijman report, an inquiry into claims that he had used EPO during the 1999 Tour de France, it said that Verbruggen and Armstrong’s own lawyers essentially shaped what had been claimed by the UCI to be a fully independent and unbiased analysis.
It also said that Verbruggen and others were more concerned with managing the image of cycling rather than seriously knuckling down and tackling the problem of doping.
However the Dutchman appeared to shrug off such conclusions.
“Where the report becomes more subjective, however, it also becomes more contradictory. The CIRC’s main criticism in its analysis of the UCI’s anti-doping policy is that the “policies put in place to combat doping during my presidency were inadequate”. That is a rather cheap shot from people who today have the benefit of 25 years of hindsight,” he wrote.
“The CIRC omits to mention that I took over the UCI presidency in November 1991, when the UCI was virtually non-existent and had no financial means whatsoever. This meant the whole federation had to be started from scratch, including its anti-doping activities. As a result, the necessary professionalization of the UCI’s anti-doping work could only be started as of 1992 – and we had to work with the technology that existed at the time.
“For the CIRC to pronounce judgment concerning the “adequacy” or otherwise of the start of our battle against doping, without taking these prevailing circumstances into account, is, I believe, unfair.”
He insisted that little more could have been done at the time due to financial and staff constraints.
Rather than addressing the numerous points made where CIRC outlined where the UCI was too close to Armstrong, including the approval of a backdated medical prescription which enabled him to sidestep a doping positive in the 1999 Tour, Verbruggen chose to fault others.
“The CIRC, in saying that I was too close to Armstrong when there was strong reasons to suspect him of doping and that “UCI failed to target test him despite the suspicions”, is being rather blinkered and one-sided in its condemnation. It pointedly fails to mention that WADA only tested Armstrong three times in ten years and that USADA performed far worse than the UCI in its testing of Armstrong. This was all information that the CIRC had in its possession.
“In this respect, I am grateful that the CIRC report vindicates what I have said from the very beginning: “the CIRC is not suggesting that UCI leadership knowingly or deliberately allowed doping and high-profile dopers to continue within the sport knowing or suspecting them still to be doping.” This was one of the main allegations against me and the UCI.”
As for criticism of the way he ran the federation, he said that those who made such claims were not representative. “The CIRC’s description of my presidency as ‘autocratic without appropriate checks and balances’ is a caricature based on the opinions of five people who, for a variety of reasons, had personal grudges against me.
“I would gladly have provided the CIRC with a list of 50 to 100 people who have worked with me as President of their Boards, Commissions, etc. and who would definitely not recognize the extremely one-sided picture that has been painted of me.”