As the saying goes, "you better be purer than Caesar’s wife", when it comes to the vitriolic engagement of others – political or otherwise. Indeed, the "chickens are coming home to roost" for Hein Verbruggen, as accusations are now coming forward from former cyclists – alleging acts of threats and intimidation on the part of the former UCI president.
Although Verbruggen adamantly denies his role in covering up a "doping" infraction involving disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, the Dutch press is now exposing further evidence that the former UCI boss had been informed by other cyclists as to prevalence of EPO use in the peloton, but did little to stop it.
According to the Dutch newspaper Algameen Dagblad (AD.nl), two-time Tour of Flanders, Edwig Van Hooydonck,, warned Verbruggen of the increasing use of EPO, and that is was becoming impossible for "clean" riders such as himself compete.
"After I retired, I had a conversation with Verbruggen, I told him what was going on … that EPO was on the rise since the beginning of the 90s, but he said I was exaggerating."
It was the early days of Verbruggen’s presidency when EPO made its way into the peloton, but by the end of his tenure – the sport was said to be rife with the drug.
Indeed, as the cycling world now knows from the testimony collected by the US Anti-Doping Agency in it’s investigation of Armstrong, riders were doping with virtual impunity. Still, Verbruggen has maintained that the UCi had no responsibility if the tests failed to snare the culprits. In fact, he said it was the "testers’ fault".
“I don’t understand the whole fuss at all,” Verbruggen said in an interview with the Dutch magazine De Muur earlier this year. “If you test someone 215 times and he is always negative, then the problem is in the test itself. Well, I’m not responsible."
"It is easy to say, ‘you knew it!’ but nobody knew anything for sure. We only had suspicions (…) We did what we could only detect nothing we could. (…) I don’t understand all this fuss at all (…) We knew as much as the journalists….”
In addition, according to former PDM rider Peter Stevenhaagen in AD.nl, Verbruggen did little to counter the impression that the UCI was in control of those who were caught.
Stevenhaagen described a conversation that he had with Verbruggen after a newspaper interview quoted the him as being critical of the UCI’s management of the sport.
"You have a problem, boy. I can I make or break riders like you. I decide who is positive. I knows what’s going on at PDM," Stevenhaagen recalled Verbruggen stating.
Verbruggen denied the statements, but Stevenhaagen indicated that he was was frightened by Verbruggen’s threats.
"After that confrontation I was subjected to more doping controls than normal. I was scared, and I didn’t dare participate in the Tour in 1988. I threw away the cortisone and testosterone vials."
Furthermore, recent statements from former Mapei team owner Giorgio Squinzi suggest the same belligerent attitude from Verbruggen when he confronted him about the "doping" problem in cycling as well. To wit, Squinzi claims that Verbruggen threatened to disqualify his team by his sarcastic statement that "it was impossible to win the Tour de France without drugs".
According to a Slipstream Sports CEO Jonathan Vaughters, the threats from Verbruggen continued past his tenure as president.
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