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Former UCI leader Verbruggen defiant after doping report

March 9, 2015

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Under fire in a scathing report into cycling’s doping culture which said he colluded to protect Lance Armstrong, former UCI president Hein Verbruggen insists he “nothing to be ashamed for.”

“I’m not a criminal. I don’t feel guilty of anything,” Verbruggen told The Associated Press in an interview on Monday.

Still, as president of the International Cycling Union from 1991-2005 — throughout Armstrong’s seven-year Tour de France title run — the Dutch official was severely criticized in the dossier.

The most serious conclusions of the Cycling Independent Reform Commission concern Verbruggen’s UCI covering up doping issues from Armstrong’s first Tour de France win in 1999. Then, cycling sought a new star after a doping scandal the previous year.

Current UCI President Brian Cookson said he will ask Verbruggen to resign the honorary presidency he has held for the past 10 years.

Verbruggen doesn’t think that threat “is to be taken seriously,” and dismissed suggestions his IOC honorary membership could be at risk.

“I think if there would have been bribery, it would have been another story,” Verbruggen said.

The UCI-appointed investigation panel dismissed claims that Armstrong reached an agreement with Verbruggen to pay the UCI $25,000 to cover up alleged positive tests for EPO at the 2001 Tour de Suisse.

The panel also found no evidence that Armstrong’s later $100,000 donation to the governing body was linked to discrediting French reports that his 1999 Tour samples later tested positive for EPO.

Verbruggen was joined by his successor as UCI president, Pat McQuaid, in expressing satisfaction that the most serious claims were not proven.

“This report totally exonerates me on the key questions it set out to answer, on corruption and cover-ups in doping,” McQuaid told the AP.

However, the report said both former leaders undermined anti-doping efforts and made decisions to favor Armstrong despite suspicions he was doping.

It concluded that the Verbruggen-led UCI helped cover up Armstrong’s positive tests for corticosteroids during the race by breaking its own rules to accepting a backdated prescription.

“It was in line with our rules,” Verbruggen said Monday. “They (the CIRC) say it wasn’t, we say it was.”

In some of the strongest language of the 227-report, the panel cited the UCI’s “serious breach of its obligations . to govern the sport correctly.”

A false medical certificate issued on Armstrong’s behalf “should have been reported to the criminal authorities and the relevant medical boards,” the report said.

“I have been in the papers for years for covering up tests, for bribes, for EPO cases and so on and so on,” Verbruggen said. “And we are all back now on a cortisone case in 1999 for which even the French government decided was not a doping case.”

An IOC member from 1996-2008, and an honorary member since, Verbruggen said he would “definitely” attend the body’s next annual session, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in July.

The IOC did not address questions put by the AP about a possible ethics commission case against Verbruggen when it issued a statement Monday welcoming publication of the CIRC report.

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Associated Press writer Shawn Pogatchnik in Dublin, Ireland, contributed to this report.

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