Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong is alleging in a new interview that the "doping" conspiracy he was part of – went to the very top of the sport.
The 42-year old Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, says former world cycling chief Hein Verbruggen knew he was doping and encouraged the cover-up when Armstrong escaped punishment for a failed test on the 1999 Tour.
And he has no plans to take all the blame for cycling’s darkest days, when drug use was rife.
‘To think I am protecting any of these guys after the way they treated me, that is ludicrous,’ said the American in an exclusive interview with the Mail.
‘I’m not protecting them at all. I have no loyalty towards them.
‘I’m not going to lie to protect these guys. I hate them. They threw me under the bus. I’m done with them.’
The accusations came when Armstrong met with Emma O’Reilly, formerly a soigneur on his US Postal team who exposed the doping culture nine years ago and whose jobs on the team included using make-up to cover needle marks on the Texan’s arms and collecting banned substances for him.
O’Reilly witnessed US Postal provide the UCI with a backdated prescription for a saddle sore following that positive test for cortisone in 1999.
This backdated prescription was the specific event Armstrong alleges Verbruggen aided in covering up.
He said: ‘The real problem was, the sport was on life support. And Hein just said, “This is a real problem for me, this is the knockout punch for our sport, so we’ve got to come up with something”. So we backdated the prescription.’
Armstrong has apologized for publicy ridiculing O’Reilly, who wanted closure with the man she once worked so closely with and says was ‘a jerk and a bully’.
They had a private dinner together and she seems happy to have some resolution with him.
As for Verbruggen, he has not commented on Armstrong’s accusations so far, but insisted he had nothing to be ashamed of in a letter earlier this month to mark his UCI exit.
‘I have never acted inappropriately and my conscience is absolutely clean,’ he said.
‘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.’
With new UCI chief Brian Cookson calling for an independent inquiry into the whole sorry affair it seems likely there will be further bombshells before any sort of conclusion.
Armstrong hopes that conclusion will see his lifetime ban reduced to eight years and must cooperate with the UCI to have a chance achieving that goal.
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