In an interview with Vrij Nederland Hein Verbruggen states that he initiated UCI-policy to warn riders with suspect values.
The cycling federation notified Lance Armstrong back in 2001 about his values being suspect. Despite that, Verbruggen always defended Armstrong publicly. Verbruggen to Vrij Nederland: ‘It was hard for me to the extent that you know more than you can say. You have questions but you can’t express it publicly.’ Hein Verbruggen was president of the UCI from 1991-2005.
Confidential papers show that topriders and teammanagers were invited to come to the UCI headquarters in Switzerland where UCI’s chief doctor Mario Zorzoli gave them powerpoint presentations showing UCI’s anti-doping strategy and giving them information about found suspect values. Other riders were called, either by Zorzoli or by Lon Schattenberg, Dutch member of the UCI anti-doping commission.
Dutch riders were warned as well. Karsten Kroon confirms to Vrij Nederland that Lon Schattenberg called him in 2004 to inform him about his abnormal bloodvalues. Kroon was riding for the Rabobank cycling team at the time.
Australian antidoping expert Michael Ashenden, who worked on developing the blood passport for the UCI from 2008-2012 is not aware of any other federation warning athletes when they have suspect values. Ashenden says that this UCI-policy gives riders the opportunity to adjust their doping intake so they won’t test positive.
Verbruggen says he’s not interested that this policy reduces the chance of catching the cheaters. UCI tried to persuade the riders this way to stop taking performance enhancing drugs. ‘You might convince them not to use doping anymore or you might not.’
Hein Verbruggen confirms in the interview that Thomas Weisel Partners managed some of his assets from 2001-2004. Weisel was the co-owner of Armstrong’s USPostal team and one of the business partners of Armstrong. Verbruggen says he didn’t know about that. ‘But even if I had known, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it.’
The full interview will appear in the next issue of Vrij Nederland, in Dutch, available next thursday (jan 24th).