Cycling boss denies claim he defended Lance Armstrong on drug accusations
THE International Cycling Union's honorary president Hein Verbruggen has dismissed claims that he appeared to defend Lance Armstrong.
A report by the United States Anti-Doping Agency says Armstrong was a serial drug-taker at the centre of a systematic and widespread programme of doping by members of his United States Postal Service team during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Dutchman Verbruggen was president of the UCI during that time and as recently as last year insisted seven-times Tour de France winner Armstrong had "never, never, never" taken performance-enhancing drugs.
The 71-year-old Dutchman is still honorary president and a member of the UCI's management committee.
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf today reported Verbruggen saying: "Lance Armstrong has never tested positive, even by USADA. There is no trace of evidence."
Verbruggen responded in a statement issued by the UCI.
"I vehemently protest against the article in De Telegraaf of Thursday morning," he said.
"That article wrongly suggests that I would have stated that notwithstanding the USADA file there is no evidence against Lance Armstrong.
"I made no statement at all on this subject. The heading above the article is absolutely wrong and misleading."
Verbruggen insisted his comments were made by text message in reference to a legal dispute involving Armstrong and in which evidence was given by Kathy LeMond, wife of three-time Tour champion Greg LeMond.
Verbruggen added: "While giving the impression that it is about a complete interview I simply sent some SMS to these two gentlemen giving a reaction on Ms LeMond's statement that a sum of money had been paid in order to cover up a positive test of Lance Armstrong.
"My reaction was strictly limited to the fact that Lance Armstrong was never found positive by the anti-doping laboratories, that there was no positive test and that there was nothing to be covered up.
"I completely distance myself from the article in De Telegraaf and in any other medium that would use it."
Meanwhile, Johan Bruyneel, who was team director of the US Postal team during the Armstrong era, criticised USADA as he continues to protest his innocence and fight charges.
"While I am still stunned that USADA chose to breach the confidentiality of the proceedings it initiated against me, I shall nevertheless not allow myself to be reduced to such tactics," Bruyneel wrote on his website, www.johanbruyneel.com.
"In response to recent speculation, I will continue to be involved in legal proceedings relating to USADA's proposed charges as long as I believe that I am still able to receive a fair hearing and that my defence has not been permanently prejudiced by USADA's act.
"However, rest assured that the time will come when I will share with you a balanced account of events."
Bruyneel last week left his role as general manager of the RadioShack Nissan Trek team by mutual agreement in the wake of the publication of the USADA report.