Ex-UCI boss: I don't back Lance
The Hague - Former International Cycling Union (UCI) boss Hein Verbruggen dismissed a report in a Dutch newspaper on Thursday which claimed he still backed disgraced cycling icon Lance Armstrong.
Verbruggen, who was the president of the sport's world governing body from 1991 to 2005, during the time of Armstrong's seven consecutive Tour de France wins, was quoted in De Telegraaf as saying: "Lance Armstrong has never been tested positive including by the USADA (the US Anti-Doping Agency)."
"There is therefore not a trace of proof," Verbruggen, who is now UCI honorary president, allegedly told the daily.
But Verbruggen issued a strongly-worded statement through the Lausanne-based UCI slating the "tone of De Telegraaf's article which unjustly states that despite USADA's dossier I still insist there is no proof" against Armstrong.
The USADA report was based upon testimony from 26 witnesses that include 11 former Armstrong team-mates.
Verbruggen also dismissed comments in which he allegedly criticised Kathy LeMond, the outspoken wife of three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond.
The paper said LeMond accused Verbruggen earlier this week of taking a bribe offered by Nike in 1999 to make a positive dope test by Armstrong disappear, a claim which Verbruggen then claimed "was so absurd it was not worth an official statement."
In his UCI statement on Thursday, Verbruggen said: "While the impression was made that it was about a full interview, I just sent the said gentlemen (at De Telegraaf) a few SMSs (text messages)."
"I was merely reacting to Mrs LeMond's statement. My singular and only reaction was that Lance Armstrong has never tested positive by a drug laboratory, that there was no positive test and therefore it not could have been hidden," Verbruggen said, adding he "totally distanced himself from the article".
USADA a week ago dropped a bombshell on the cycling world when it released a 202-page "reasoned decision" into why it had banned Armstrong for life in August, with more than 1 000 pages of supporting evidence.
The document said Armstrong had been at the heart of the biggest doping programme in the history of sport.