Hein Verbruggen: 'My conscience is clean'
Hein Verbruggen officially turned his back on cycling and its recent scandals, including the Lance Armstrong doping investigation. In a letter to the national federations, which Italian website Tuttobiciweb published on Sunday, the former UCI president outlined his accomplishments and tried to clarify his name.
"I have never acted inappropriately and that my conscience is absolutely clean," the 72-year-old Dutchman wrote. "With the benefit of hindsight, however, I admit that I could have done some things differently, but I do not accept that my integrity is in doubt."
Verbruggen served as president from 1991 to 2005 and later as vice-president, honorary president and a management committee member. During his time he dealt with rampant EPO use, doping scandals and allegations of corruption. In his letter to current president Brian Cookson, he tried to defend himself and the UCI's actions while saying good-bye.
"During my presidency of the UCI, we got these results," he said. He listed several items, including "unification of the three existing cycling federations, settling the finances, construction of a World Cycling Centre and an establishment of an Ethics Commission."
He highlighted several issues - from doping to corruption to Armstrong - that tarnished his name. He explained that the governing body in the times that included the Festina Affair had made a serious attempt to curb drug use in cycling. He said that he was sick of journalists writing otherwise and attacking him.
"I have never acted inappropriately and I have a clear conscience. No facts, no evidence contradict this truth," he continued. "I refuse to engage in a silly debate and to stoop to the level of those who criticise me and believe that I have to prove my innocence: in fact, they are the ones who cannot prove that I have done something wrong."
Many critics question Verbruggen and his successor, Pat McQuaid's relationship with Armstrong. The $125,000 donation Armstrong made to the UCI in 2002 appears to critics as a bribe to cover up a corticosteroid positive test from the Tour de France and an alleged doping positive result from the Tour of Switzerland.
"UCI has never protected Armstrong," he explained. The majority of Verbruggen's letter covered Armstrong.
"The UCI's position on the 1999 Tour de France and the 2001 Tour de Suisse was already clarified. I will not waste your time to repeat what has been said over the years.
"I recently wrote to Lance Armstrong to express my disgust in the cynical game he plays. [About how] he refuses to make a public statement to refute the allegations made by team-mates Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, who had said that they had no need to fear positive results because [Armstrong] could ask the UCI to take matters into its hands and cover up their positive [results].
"When these allegations were published for the first time, I wrote an e-mail to Armstrong, I asked him if he had made those statements to his team-mates... Armstrong immediately replied: 'I have never been found positive, so I do not see why I should invent stories like this, it would be a really stupid idea. It is 100% false.' The fact that Armstrong has chosen not to respond to my recent letter and not to speak publicly about what he wrote in his e-mail in June 2011 is very painful."
Current president, Brian Cookson ran his campaign partly on a change of regime, leaving behind the Verbruggen/McQuaid era. He said that Verbruggen would not have any part in the new UCI and that an independent commission that is taking shape could even investigate his alleged wrongdoings.
"There comes a time when enough is enough. I reached this point," wrote Verbruggen. "Starting today, these problems do not concern me more and, despite what has happened over the last year, it is with a sense of pride and satisfaction that I look back at everything I've done."
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Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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