(Reuters) - Former International Cycling Union (UCI) president Hein Verbruggen has dismissed claims by Lance Armstrong that he helped cover up a failed drugs test and says the disgraced American has made his life a misery.
Armstrong suggested last month that in 1999 when the Texan was on his way to winning his first Tour de France title, Verbruggen had helped cover-up a positive drugs test for corticosteroids by backdating a prescription for saddle sore cream.
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour titles and banned from cycling for life, having been accused by the United States Anti-Doping Agency of the “most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program sport has ever seen”.
Verbruggen told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that Armstrong was destroying his reputation, and also produced a report that he said proved there was no positive test to cover up because the findings in the test were the result of the legal cream.
“Never, ever would I have had a conversation saying, ‘We have to take care of this’,” the Dutchman said.
”It might very well be that he or somebody else from the team has given me a call and my first reaction was, '... We had this Festina problem and now this’. But that’s a very long way from concluding we have to do something about it.
“How can I take care of something that is known already by the laboratory, that is known already by the French Ministry (which conducted the test), that is known by the UCI, the anti-doping people at the UCI? It’s ridiculous.”
Armstrong had alleged that he discussed the positive test with the Dutchman, who had said it was a “knockout punch” for the sport after the Festina team were kicked off the Tour the previous year, and that they needed to “come up with something”.
Verbruggen said Armstrong was destroying his reputation.
“I see it as if I‘m part of a kind of industry now: it’s called the Lance Armstrong industry,” he told the newspaper.
”People are making films now. It’s all part of the industry. You have a lot of people in it with a vested interest, and this interest is clearly not to know the truth.
“Lance Armstrong has his own agenda and that is certainly his own personal interest, whether it is that he wants his sanctions to be reduced or whether he wants money. Usually, with Lance, there is always an interest also in money. My interest is the truth.”
Verbruggen, an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee, also denied donations by Armstrong to the UCI were bribes, saying that they were never hidden, but he admitted accepting them was an error.
He said he did not have any inappropriate financial dealings with Armstrong’s US Postal Service team, and said he would “never forget, or forgive” the American for suggesting he or the UCI were corrupt.
“He caused me a lot of misery.”
Reporting By Josh Reich; editing by Amlan Chakraborty