The UCI and its former president Hein Verbruggen were quick to dismiss Floyd Landis’s allegation that Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel made a payment to ensure that a positive test for EPO at the Tour of Switzerland in 2001 was suppressed.

However, details of a payment Armstrong did make to the UCI has caused further confusion and highlighted the need for greater transparency at cycling’s governing body. There are inconsistencies in declarations Armstrong and current UCI president Pat McQuaid have made about the amount donated and exactly how the money was spent.

Armstrong told Cycling Weekly that the payment made in 2005, before he retired, was around $25,000. McQuaid admitted on Irish radio on Thursday that it was in fact $100,000 – $88,000 of which was spent on a Sysmex machine, a piece of equipment used to analyse blood. In an email to CW in December 2008, McQuaid said Armstrong’s donation was spent exclusively on the Sysmex machine. Now McQuaid admits that there was a surplus of $12,000 and the UCI has not declared what happened to this money.

McQuaid denies any conflict of interest but the payment raises questions about whether it is appropriate for active athletes to make any financial donations to the body that is supposed to be governing the sport.

In September 2008, Lance Armstrong announced to the media that he intended to return to cycling at the Tour Down Under in January 2009. However, it emerged that he had not registered with the UCI anti-doping service’s pool of tested riders in time. The rules state that a rider intending to return to competition after a break must be registered and available for out-of-competition dope testing for six months before being eligible to race.

McQuaid told CW: “The UCI will follow the rules, regardless of whom the rider is. The rider must be in the anti-doping system for six months, that’s the rule he must follow.”

Armstrong informed the UCI of his intention to return on August 1, 2008, meaning he would be eligible to race on February 1, 2009, 12 days too late for him to start the Tour Down Under. Armstrong claimed to have not been aware of the specifics of the rule and hoped the UCI would “show common sense”.

However, a UCI source confirmed to CW in October 2008 that Armstrong had been made aware of the rule in two separate letters. The source said: “He didn’t stumble across the rule. The rule was conveyed to him very clearly in two letters.”

On October 8, it was announced that the UCI was to waive rule 77 allowing Armstrong to take part in the Tour Down Under. Armstrong had cited the case of Mario Cipollini, who had come out of retirement in February 2008 to ride the Tour of California. A UCI official admitted to CW that Cipollini had caught them unawares.

In November and December 2008, Cycling Weekly was engaged in an email exchange with Pat McQuaid to ask about the decision to waive the rule. In the interests of transparency, CW asked whether the UCI’s decision had been in any way influenced by the fact Armstrong had donated money to them in the past. McQuaid strongly denied any suggestion. “In 2005, the year that he retired, nobody knew that Armstrong would ever have thought of returning to cycling,” McQuaid wrote. “It’s just ridiculous to make a link between the gift and his return. There was no reasonable justification for making him [Armstrong] – and the organisers and fans – wait just another 11 days.”

McQuaid explained that Armstrong’s donation was used to purchase a Sysmex machine, a piece of equipment for analysing blood samples which can perform blood cell and reticulocyte counts.

In another email Mr McQuaid said: “The UCI received a gift from Lance Armstrong which was used to purchase a Sysmex machine for checking riders’ health. This machine is still used in the field.”

As Armstrong had been quoted in 2005 saying that he had made a number of donations to the UCI over the years, CW sought clarification. McQuaid replied: “It was a one-off definitely.”

CW then asked how much money Armstrong donated. McQuaid declined to give a figure saying that we should accept and understand “…why UCI cannot give you the figure and accept that the donation was used exclusively to purchase the Sysmex machine.”

In an interview with CW‘s Edward Pickering during autumn 2008, Armstrong was asked about the donation.

How much was it?
Er… well, I can get you an exact number. Around 25,000 dollars. This was a long time ago.

Was the payment to Verbruggen or the UCI?
The UCI. I made it in the interests of it helping. The UCI is not a wealthy organisation.

Did you consider it was a potential conflict of interest?
I didn’t. And if it was, we wouldn’t have done it.

One of the allegations Floyd Landis has made is that in the first year following the introduction of the EPO test, Armstrong had been advised by Dr Michele Ferrari to stop using the drug. However, Landis contends that Armstrong continued to use it and tested positive at the Tour of Switzerland. Landis goes on to claim that Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel then travelled to the UCI’s headquarters and made a financial arrangement with Hein Verbruggen to keep the positive test hidden.

Although these claims had not been reported by the media because of the legal difficulty of reporting an unsubstantiated claim, the allegation was widely distributed on the internet.

And the claim was brought into the public domain by both Mr Verbruggen and the UCI, who denied vigorously the accusation. Verbruggen told the Associated Press news agency that “never has Lance Armstrong declared positive by a lab”.

The UCI repeated the potential libel against itself by issuing a statement on its website strenuously denying Landis’s claim. Since this article was written, the link to the UCI’s statement seems to have stopped working on all browsers. CW has a screengrab of the page as it appeared.

The UCI appeared to believe Landis was saying that the incident had taken place at the 2002 Tour of Switzerland, and pointed out that Armstrong did not ride that race. However, it is clear in the email that Landis was referring to 2001 – the year after the EPO test was introduced. Armstrong won the Tour of Switzerland in 2001.

Asked on Thursday if he had ever paid the UCI any money, Armstrong said: “Absolutely not.”

Speaking to newstalk, an Irish radio station, this week, McQuaid said there was no way that a rider could pay off the UCI to bury a positive test. “That is completely untrue. The results of any positive test would have gone to the international controlling body, which is the UCI, and the International Olympic Committee. So, the IOC would have been aware of any positive test on the Tour of Switzerland in 2001. So there’s no way the UCI could hide that. It’s a fabrication.”

In the same interview, the issue of Armstrong’s payment to the UCI came up and McQuaid confirmed the amount. “The UCI received $100,000 from Lance Armstrong in 2005. Four years after this incident [the Tour of Switzerland] is supposed to have taken place. So they are completely separate. That money was given to the UCI to buy a Sysmex machine because we needed to go more into blood controls and we needed a Sysmex machine which cost something like $88,000. It was given to the UCI to buy that machine and the UCI is still using that machine at international events on a daily basis.”

Asked what happened to the remaining $12,000, McQuaid said: “We had 12,000 change out of it, so what odds does that make?”

Asked if it is standard practice to accept donations from cyclists, McQuaid said: “The UCI is the same as any federation would accept donations from anyone who’s prepared to give us money to assist us in developing the sport.”

Given the conflicting statements from Armstrong and McQuaid, questions remain. How much money was donated, what happened to the surplus and why did McQuaid tell CW Armstrong’s donation was used exclusively for the Sysmex machine when there was $12,000 left over?

And the wider questions must surely be, in the interests of transparency, are donations from active riders and others still connected to cycling still being accepted by the UCI? And if so, who is paying and for what?

  • Jason W

    Great story, guys – keep it up!
    If my licence to race missed a deadline by 12 days, and I overpaid the organisers leaving them $12,000 in pocket, then I ‘forgot’ how much I paid them – what would you think? It’s details like this that make it all begin to look like a smoking gun.

  • Pedalheid

    Looks like CW has grown some teeth for a change, maybe now we won’t see Lance on the front cover every other week. Good work maybe someday the truth will come to the surface.

  • Ken Evans

    The UCI repeated the potential libel against itself by issuing
    strenuously denying Landis’s claim.

    This link is broken !

    “An error occurred – to use this master, you must create the three root menus
    LEFTMENU, RIGHTMENU and BOTTOMMENU (in that order, visible, no page)”

    The UCI doesn’t seem to be running the sport entirely perfectly !

  • Kent

    Go on CW. Take all these corrupt bastards down!!!! You guys will be hero’s. The general public is sick and tired of being lied to and taken for fools. Its time for the TRUTH. Well done and keep at it.

  • geoff

    This is good to see CW. I’m sick of the sychophantic journalism that follows LA around. It’s clear there are a number of questions to be answered here, in the interests of the sport you should stick to your guns and follow this to a conclusion. No doubt you’ll be stone walled and warned off.

  • John

    Well done, Mr. Bernie, and thanks for having the brass to write it when so many others are advocating the bury the head in the sand approach. I’d like to add just how sick I felt hearing that France’s President Sarkozy had rearranged his work appointments to spend an hour with Bruyneel, Armstrong, and the baby mama, and accepted an expensive personalized bike from people who are persons of interest in an ongoing police investigation. And the possible bribery over a Tour de Suisse positive reminded me why USOC members are no longer allowed to visit potential host cities.
    I was an unemployed Armstrong fan when he announced his comeback, and I spent a lot of time reading articles. When it was first rumored he would return in Australia, I remembered the February 1 deadline that had been mentioned. I left comments everywhere, especially in the Aussie press, telling people not to get their hopes up because it couldn’t happen. I was a regular at the old Livestrong website, the one for the charity, and left comments for them there. Then he announced anyway, and later everyone else caught up.

  • auskadi

    Sunday, May 23, 2010
    More Allegations against Bruyneel and the UCI
    Below a rough translation f an article from this weekend’s Danish paper Weekendavisen

    A dirty deal.

    The case of the Russian rider Vladimir Gusev uncovers the concealment, the parallel system of justice and the abuse of power in the International Cycling Union UCI. It also suggests how riders like Lance Armstrong and his team director Johan Bruyneel have been able to get away with the accusations such as the ones their former teammate Floyd Landis launched this week.

    The unjustified firing

    By KLAUS WIVEL, , May 22, 2010

  • americanocyclist

    Venga venga venga! Keep going on this story to find out the real truth! Well written, well done!

  • Simon

    Good journalism Mr. Birnie. Unusual for this day and age. If they have nothing to hide I’m sure both sides will reveal the facts backed up with documentation. Don’t stop until they do! Or they don’t…

  • Mike Cope

    Great work CW –please keep digging — we all need to know the truth , NOT the truth according to UCI /LA .

  • barry davies

    well done cycling weekly, its about time someone had the balls to stand up to the corruption that has been going on between the UCI/McQuaid/Verbruggen and armstrong and bruneel.
    perhaps now some other people, besides Landis, will now stand up and tell the truth, after all it was all docmented in David Walshes book ‘from Landis to armstrong’ where various members of the US postal staff all told the same stories.

  • James

    In response to Tommy, Landis does indeed name Leipheimer in the section referring to his conduct in 2005.

    However, he does not name Leipheimer as one of the members of US Postal who were involved, as you claim.

    In 2005, Landis rode for Phonak, Leipheimer for Gerolsteiner. Landis says he hired Allen Lim as his own coach.

    So that part is section of his email is not referring to US Postal Service at all and has no bearing on the US Postal team.

  • Tommy

    Here is another piece of this puzzle that needs to be figured out if Floyd’s allegations are to be fully airtight. In the letter, he specifically named Levi Leipheimer as one of the members of US Postal who were involved. The hole that Armstrong and Co. will likely try and bring into this is that Levi and Floyd were never teammates. Levi left U.S. Postal before Floyd joined the team in 2002, and whether or not they trained together, I highly doubt that U.S. Postal was willing to supply a competitor with any sort of PEDs.

  • Danny

    Excellent article and keep up the good work, in the best spirit of journalistic investigation. The dealings with the UCI are the worst aspect of this whole affair. For all the talk in some quarters of the past being the past, and we should look forward, how can cycling seriously claim to be anti-doping when key figures at the UCI and in teams’ management/financing (Bruyneel, Lim, Armstrong) are up to their knees in this scandal. There needs to be a full independent investigation into all donations made to the UCI. Also, the assertion that a lab could have found a rider positive without the IOC being informed is nonsense – all it would take is some corruption on behalf of the lab and, as Jesus Manzano’s allegations against Walter Viru show, this is not beyond the realms of possibility!

  • Suze

    Nailed it – ever since the ToC press conference and McQuaid’s interview it has been clear that the pieces don’t quite fit, especially when you factor in Sylvia Schenk’s anecdotal evidence of at least $500,000 in donations to the UCI during Verbruggen’s time in charge and which Armstrong alluded to, under oath, during the SCA hearings. That’s a lot of money that the UCI will need to provide a proper audit trail for and many puzzle pieces to make fit – please keep writing such lucid, excellent pieces that help us to see the bigger picture.

  • Mike Morris

    Rotten from the top to the bottom ! The Feds might finally drag the UCI out of Lance’s wallet and then………….

  • Rory

    Sylvia Shcenk said in an interview with velonews some years ago that as far as she was aware the donation was 500,000

  • Andrew Gannon

    Excellent work- Hope you get some answers and clarification on these important issues.
    I know what cycling Mag has some decent objective journalism!

    Thank you

  • Hadyn Bosher @ 77in Thailandb

    What a state of affairs!!,Armstrong and the U.C.I.must have documention for any transaction made,if only for tax purposes!! Stick to your enquiries Cycling Weekly,and let’s hope we can see some evidence of these payments,there has to be receits, if only for the sysmex machine,or is there “backhanders’ there as well.i don’t believe any of them, what a mess cycling has become.!!

  • Marc

    In terms of McQuad mentioning that both the UCI and IOC would have needed to be informed. That discounts nothing. Verbruggen was an IOC member at the time