Former UCI president Verbruggen defends Armstrong

Last Updated: Fri, Oct 19, 2012 07:40 hrs

The Hague, Oct 19 (IANS) Former International Cycling Union (UCI) president Hein Verbruggen is still not convinced about the evidence presented by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) against seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

Last week USADA revealed a report of 1,000 pages, including testimonies of several former teammates, on the structural use of doping in the former US Postal/Discovery cycling team, masterminded by Armstrong. The USADA described it as "the most sophisticated doping program in sports history", reports Xinhua.

"Armstrong has never tested positive, even by USADA," Verbruggen was quoted as saying in Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf Thursday. "There is no trace of evidence."

Verbruggen,71, was president of UCI between 1991 and 2005. In that period Armstrong reigned the peloton, winning the Tour de France seven times in a row from 1999 until 2005.

Earlier this week, Kathy LeMond, wife of former Tour winner Greg LeMond, said that Nike wired $500,000 to a Swiss bank account that belonged to Verbruggen to compensate for the cover-up of a 1999 positive drug test for corticosteroids by Armstrong.

"Everyone who knows the doping control procedures knows this is not possible," said Verbruggen. "Mrs. LeMond's story is so absurd that it's not worth an official statement. There are many, many stories and insinuations. I already passed the stage of being tired of it."

Meanwhile the confidence in the 41-year-old Armstrong by other confidants has steadily decreased.

Armstrong's longtime sponsor Nike Wednesday ended its contract with Armstrong.

"Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him," the American sports clothing and equipment company announced.

Due to the negative publicity, Armstrong, who survived cancer, decided to conclude his chairmanship of his foundation LiveStrong for cancer support.

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