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  • Verbruggen: Cycling Not to Blame for Doping Crisis


    I read with great interest Mr Uyoe’s OpEd “Doping in Sport: It’s Bigger than Russia” published on on 1st July 2016.
    Hein Verbruggen (Getty Images)

    While I fully agree with Mr Uyoe that the problem of doping in sport is bigger than Russia, I am somewhat surprised that his OpEd mentions athletics and cycling only and also that he seems to put athletics and cycling in the same box, in particular when he refers to suppressing positive tests.

    I quote:

    But what happens when the sporting federation colludes with the tainted athlete to suppress a positive test in deference to commercial interest? A report by the Independent Cyclist Reform Commission cited strong evidence suggesting cycling’s governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI), worked very closely with Lance Armstrong, his legal counsel and his doctors (as far back as 1999) to circumvent allegations of doping, thereby enabling UCI to project Armstrong as the face of their sport for nearly a decade, reaping the commercial gains associated with a popular athlete with an inspiring triumph-over-cancer backstory.

    That same conflict of interest prevailed within the IAAF. In November 2015, IAAF President Lamine Diack admitted to taking over $1.3 million in bribes from the Russian Athletics Federation to cover up its illicit doping program and suppress the positive tests of Russian athletes.

    This begs the question: when the leadership of the sports federations, obligated to maintain balance and fairness, become key players in ensuring the success of doping programs of its premier athletes and member states, is it still a fair game? Does that same federation have the “brass” to come back and sanction the individual or team which it actively briefed on how to ensure its doping program beat the system?

    Readers may easily understand from these paragraphs that something similar to “taking … bribes.. to cover up its illicit doping program and suppress the positive tests” has taken place in cycling, in particular in connection with Lance Armstrong. It is therefore important to know the facts and set the record straight.

    Although for the rest I consider the report of the Independent Cycling Reform Commission (CIRC) as a biased anti-Verbruggen pamphlet (see my website the CIRC came to the following conclusions:

    1. There is no evidence of any attempt by the UCI to cover up alleged positive results from Armstrong (pages 6,             165) .
    2. There is no evidence of any financial arrangement between Armstrong and Verbruggen, or with any other      UCI official whatsoever (page 165).
    3. There is no trace of corruption (page 166).
    4. The UCI gave no information on how to beat doping tests (page 164-165).
    5. The CIRC does not suggest that the leadership of the UCI knowingly or deliberately allowed doping (page 9).
    6. The CIRC does not suggest that the leadership of the UCI knowingly or deliberately allowed high-profile     dopers to continue within the sport, knowing or suspecting them to still be doping (page 9).
    7. The UCI took more initiatives in the fight against doping than many other international federations (page 13).
    8. The UCI was a pioneer in anti-doping (page 96).

    So it is crystal clear that the UCI did not suppress positive tests and took no bribes and that there was no collusion. In this respect I refer also to the judgments of the Eastern Vaud District Court condemning former rider and Armstrong team mate Floyd Landis (judgment of 26 September 2012) and Irish journalist Paul Kimmage (judgment of 26 May 2016) for having made statements suggesting the contrary and forbidding them to repeat same.

    I also wonder where it is found in the CIRC report that UCI “worked very closely with Lance Armstrong, his legal counsel and his doctors (as far back as 1999) to circumvent allegations of doping” (whatever ‘to circumvent allegations’ might mean). Surely the CIRC alleges that there was a preferential treatment of Lance Armstrong. I refer in this respect to the corresponding article on my website where, I believe, I have refuted these allegations conclusively. It is important to note also that the CIRC quotes as reasons for this alleged preferential treatment “the promotion of a celebrity rider after the Festina scandal” and “to shine a spotlight on the sport through its best athletes” (page 182), and not any protection in the field of doping. The CIRC states indeed that “UCI did not try to prevent Lance Armstrong from being tested on numerous occasions” (page 197). Furthermore when testifying under oath before the Eastern Vaud District Court in the Kimmage case on 27 April 2016, CIRC President Dick Marty, while being of the opinion that “Lance Armstrong was the darling (“chouchou”) of Henricus Verbruggen and of the media; he had a very particular aura”, also stated that “ From that to state that he was given preferential treatment, is a step that one cannot take.”

    Concerning the testing of Armstrong or any other athlete, Mr Uyoe points out that one of WADA’s tasks is to provide testing. Well, in spite of WADA having this task, in spite of WADA’s agreement with UCI to conduct out-of-competition testing on riders on behalf of UCI, in spite of WADA’s suspicions that it voiced publicly on Lance Armstrong, WADA tested Armstrong only two (2) times in the four year period from 2002 to 2005. One test was on 12 January 2002, the other on 3 June 2005. After Armstrong announced his return to competition in July 2008, WADA tested Armstrong once only, on 8 October 2008, and no more untill Armstrong retired from sport in 2012.

    The forcing into line of cycling and athletics by a scholar as Mr Uyoe while there was no collusion within cycling to suppress positive tests illustrates the baleful perception that has been created by WADA, and Mr Pound in particular, in a campaign of public naming and shaming for years on end. Even the CIRC has not dared to put the record straight and pandered to WADA, to a point that CIRC President Marty stated to the Court in the Kimmage case that his two colleagues, being the majority of the CIRC, didn’t wish to chafe WADA. This explains why the CIRC left under the table the facts that did not fit in the perception that WADA and Mr Pound had already created and did not examine the role of WADA in the issues that are dealt with in its report (see my website). A striking example of this is that the CIRC did not examine the role of WADA (and USADA) in USADA asking, as I was informed by reliable source, in 2011 the director of the Lausanne anti-doping lab, Martial Saugy, to sign an affidavit stating that Lance Armstrong tested positive in 2001 and UCI asked to do it away (allegations that the CIRC confirmed to be without substance).

    WADA has always been bashing and harassing UCI and my person in public press statements while there was no corruption or collusion within UCI. WADA has been sending soothing messages to IAAF representatives while sitting on information of corruption that was provided to it since 2011 according to an article in The Washington Post. It was the press who had to bring the information out. There are no objective reasons in terms of anti-doping for this blatant discrimination, only political ones.

    I fully agree with Mr Uyoe that “Everything should be on the table, including the independent audit of sports federations to ensure the integrity of its officials and its processes”. I add that everything on WADA should be on the table as well, that WADA has to be subject of that audit too and that that audit has to be conducted by people that are also totally independent from WADA. To use Mr Uyoe’s expression, it is high time for WADA to hit reset.

    If doping in sport is bigger than Russia, anti-doping is more important than WADA.

    Hein Verbruggen

    Hein Verbruggen is UCI’s Honorary President for life. He was President from 1991 to 2005. Verbruggen was also IOC Member from 1996 to 2005 and from 2006 to 2008, and the Chairman of the Coordination Commission for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing in 2008 (2001-2008). He is an Honorary Member of the IOC since 2008.