Verbruggen defends UCI warnings to 'doping' riders
Former International Cycling Union president Hein Verbruggen defended the governing body's doping policy during the Lance Armstrong era, saying on Wednesday it didn't act inappropriately when it decided to inform riders about suspicious test results.
Verbruggen, who led the UCI during Armstrong's era of Tour de France domination, said its old policy was part of a "two-pronged attack" on doping at a time when it had an "impressive" record of catching drug cheats.
"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 in a statement.
"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," he said. "However, if the atypical test results were genuinely not caused by doping, the rider also had the opportunity to have a medical check."
The UCI honorary president issued a statement after Dutch magazine "Vrij Nederland" reported his comments that Armstrong and other riders were contacted about doping suspicions.
Armstrong's suspicious sample with traces of EPO at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland led to the UCI setting up a meeting with the laboratory director who oversaw the analysis to explain how the test worked.
Armstrong and his team manager Johan Bruyneel then met Lausanne lab head Martial Saugy in Luxembourg ahead of the 2002 Tour. Saugy has said the meeting came several weeks after Armstrong returned another suspicious sample at a Tour warm-up race, the Dauphine Libere, in France.
The Dutch magazine reported that rider Karsten Kroon also met with UCI officials in 2004.
"First, it was not Hein Verbruggen who contacted riders," his statement said. "Instead, it was the UCI's medical advisers."
The UCI's former policy was formed "after some considerable debate and deliberation," Verbruggen's statement said. "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.
"It was intended to be a two-pronged attack on doping: prevention both by dissuasion and repression."
"At the same time, the UCI's impressive record of catching riders through positive tests shows that cycling's governing body was not in any way soft on cheats."