Hein Verbruggen’s Olympic Rant

Hein Verbruggen

The UCI’s Honorary President Hein Verbruggen delivered a letter to the members of the International Olympic Committee’s 15 member board yesterday, a copy of which has been obtained by insidethegames.biz.

Verbruggen denies involvement in any cover-up involving Lance Armstrong and doping although the explanations furnished are, as we’ll explore, not exactly firm arguments. But above all the letter is an extraordinary attack on the World Anti-Doping Agency, both in substance and tone.

First let’s run through Verbruggen’s assertion there was no cover-up:

“There simply was nothing to cover-up… Armstrong, nor his team mates ever tested positive.

“There was a finding for cortisone in 1999 (a time when only the UCI was testing for corticosteroids) that was declared as negative also by the French AD [anti-doping]-authorities that conducted the testd, since it was the result of the use of an (allowed) ointment.

“That case was made public immediately and the UCI issued a press release explaning how the case was resolved.

“There further was a suspicious test for EPO in 2001 but definitely NOT declared positive by the laboratory.”

Let’s start with the cortisone. As the Oprah Winfrey TV interview told us, it wasn’t the use of an ointment but outright doping. Verbruggen is still on the old script.

But that’s hindsight, no? As this blog has pointed out recently in 1999 the UCI waived its own rules to let Armstrong win the Tour de France. Once again it doesn’t matter what “the French AD” ruled because they had their rules whilst the UCI had its own rules… which it ignored for the benefit of Lance Armstrong. Now as I’ve argued the decision to waive the rules has to be seen in context, it would have required a steely governing body to do this and it wasn’t a cover up, it was public knowledge the UCI went lax on its rules. If there’s a cover-up, it’s in the wording of the letter above which skips these salient points.

Next Lance Armstrong’s 2001 Tour de Suisse EPO test. It’s now clear the UCI knew this was a suspicious result and even Hein Verbruggen knew it. Not a positive test, this seems to be agreed, but one with a sufficiently high score to suggest but not prove EPO use. The UCI could not bring a prosecution but it could monitor things more closely: did it test more? In fact in the Tour de France that followed Armstrong was only tested 10 times in total and just five times for EPO according to their own press release.

So whether it’s waiving your own rules or not following up on suspicions, if there’s no cover-up then at best things looked lax.

No fan of WADA
One remarkable aspect is the tone of the letter. Hein Verbruggen is getting a bad press these days so no wonder he feels hard done by. But the emotion seems to boil over in the letter as he resorts to capitals and exclamation points, as if he’s writing in rage rather than reflection:

I find that there is a heavy responsibility of WADA since they ‘force’ the world of sport to spend some US$0.5 billion (some US$600,000 per sanctioned positive test!!) for the fight against doping, while declaring themselves that THEIR (!) whole system is totally flawed.

“Wasn’t it WADA’s General Manager Mr. David Howman, who declared: ‘we only catch the dopey dopers…’.

“I have rarely heard someone declaring so clearly the bankruptcy of his own organization and policy.

“Half a billion in a flawed system……and no criticism at all?”

Where to start? Well nobody “forces” the UCI to sign up to sign up to WADA, although it’s a condition of being an Olympic sport these days but if Verbruggen doesn’t like it, he can start the crusade to overturn these pesky anti-doping rules. Next the equation of expenditure to prosecution is a strange one. Is WADA wasting the money? If it can achieve more prosecutions then let’s hear it, especially since the UCI itself conducts many anti-doping tests. And what else can WADA do but use validated tests? Especially since it can only lobby sports to wake-up, for example it is calling on soccer and tennis to get serious with blood tests. If anything Verbruggen should be calling for more spending on WADA and other related anti-doping measures and joining Jonathan Vaughters’s call for more money to be spent. A lot more.

Finally as well as the inaccurate and clumsy arguments and the ranty tone there’s also the idea of the letter itself as a means of lobbying the IOC’s members You imagine other members having frustrations with WADA but they must groan when reading this letter. It’s not their problem and they have better things to do, I can’t see how this will rally them. If you wanted to point out the cash cost of anti-doping you probably wouldn’t USE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!

Indeed Olympic chief Jacques Rogge is frustrated by this and said today that the UCI and WADA have to work together “and find a solution together.”

Hein Verbruggen’s still part of the UCI and a member of the UCI Management Committee. But let’s hope he doesn’t use UCI letter paper or claim to speak for cycling’s governing body when he sends out angry notes because the our sport’s “Honorary President” doesn’t seem so honourable here. He’s had a reputation as slick businessman but this letter looks unconventional in both message and tone.

No doubt people in the UCI are upset with WADA but the Olympic movement is the perfect mediator to bring these two together for the good of sport. If the IOC’s Executive Board need proof that cycling needs to patch things up with WADA for the good of the sport, here it is.

38 thoughts on “Hein Verbruggen’s Olympic Rant”

    • Cycling is being “used” in a good sense in that the IOC is pushing for more “youth” or “extreme” events to broaden the appeal of the Olympics. There are ongoing moves to introduce skateboarding to the games… with the UCI as the governing body.

      • Thank goodness for BMX and Kieren, I guess…
        Without the money these bring I imagine cycling would be scrutinised a lot closer by the IOC. Two road events and the track would be an easy target to scrap and without BMX as a ‘youth’ event and Kieren’s Japanese ‘support’ (ie, cash), the UCI could have been very much on the outer despite having Hein straddling both businesses…

  1. UCI was one of the last – if not the last – sports federations (of the Olympic sports) to sign the WADA code. They signed the code just a couple of weeks before the games in Athens. This was of course when Verbruggen was the boss, and he complained about the Code. Amusing sentence in that article, btw:
    “In the past the UCI has been at loggerheads with WADA, but Verbruggen said both organizations were now in virtual harmony. “

  2. I wonder if Hein has dementia or if he is just a sociopath. It appears he speaks before he thinks and contradicts himself regularly. Not to mention he often is attacking/denying at the same time while telling “large tales.” Sounds familiar…Big Tex anyone? It is shocking that he can retain his position with the IOC, not to mention he is still the “Honorary President” of the UCI.

  3. IOC – Hein Verbruggen. Lets get real. Anybody with the the slightest interest in the sport knew what was going on. Is Verbruggen trying to say he had no idea ! The IOC Executive Board and HV probably deserve each other. The UCI management committe must act to get rid of these slippery heads of the organization, openly accept the fact that the sport was rotten under their leadership, and for once try and resolve this ongoing problem. Any resolution will be impossible with these two, so closely associated with event of the past (or present) still in place.

  4. Hein is on a very old script indeed. The one that reads ‘no positive tests equals no doping’ has been truly ripped up and thrown away and it is sad that a sports ‘leader’ is still using it.

    Also on the facts I believe a certain team mate on the US Cycling squad tested positive at the 2004 Olympics.

  5. My comment to insidethegame :

    ” Why would anyone have to write to their ” peers ” if they were Innocent ? Smells fishy that , HV said , ” NEVER , Never , never ..” about Armstrong , then Lance reveals the TRUTH !

    Daily we see the Aigle tag team duo , coming out with a series of ” Foot in mouth ” declarations , which bury their credibility deeper in the mire !

    Only recently we had HV , reveal that it was routine , to tell Cycling Stars , that they had exceeded the ” Doping Limits ” ! He says , so that gthey would give up Doping ? Who was he kidding ?

    At 71+yo , time he considered retiring , before the Swiss Authorities , act on the information supplied by Paul Kimmage’s Lawyer , in Nov 2012 !

  6. Is it possible that Hein hasn’t actually bothered to watch the Oprah interview, could he be that daft? History has show he probably is that daft, to make public statements without bothering to check what is available in the public domain for people to check, even something as well publicised as that inteview, maybe he’s not got himself a computer yet. He should have stuck to selling Mars bars in his previous career, he’s not very good at sports management.

  7. As someone who has to write a lot of formal contractual letters, I’m laughing at this one. There are better, more reasoned ways to get your point across.

    I’d ask, what prompted him to write the bloody thing in the first place? Is it some kind of hoax?

  8. Obviously $ per positive test is a totally irrelevant metric.

    If (and it’s a big ‘if’) anti-doping efforts become more effective, one would expect fewer positive tests over time as fewer athletes would cheat because the likelihood of being caught is higher. Therefore a rising $ per positive test could conceivably illustrate a more effective anti-doping regime.

  9. Hilarious. Champagne comedy. You could not write this in a script, no-one would believe it. Morevoer, this sort of behaviour would not be tolerated by any professional or community organisation that I have experience with. To see it from someone holding the positions which Verbruggen does is astonishing.

    Verbruggen has confirmed himself as a corrupt old fool who doesn’t even have the sense to communicate appropriately. The best part about this letter is that its a wonderful addition to the dossier supporting a change at the helm of the UCI.

    Go back to selling Mars bars Hein.

  10. It’s tough to give up power and those who abuse power really have a tough time giving it up i.e. Assad, Mubarak (sp), etc. So, in order to hold onto what they have they resort to lies, invective and assertiveness. Mr. Verbruggen seems to fit the mold, doesn’t he? I’d wager a guess that Mr. Verbruggen and Mr. McQuaid will be out of work before long if there is any sense in the UCI. Good riddance!

  11. A slight off topic question & not withstanding Inrng’s observation,
    “Let’s start with the cortisone. As the Oprah Winfrey TV interview told us, it wasn’t the use of an ointment but outright doping.”
    Does the use of a cortisone ointment (even a large application), get into the bloodstream & show up significantly in a blood test for cortisone levels?

  12. OF COURSE Mr. Mars hates WADA! The whole damn, pesky thing was dreamed up after his failures in the Festina fiasco and has been a thorn in his side ever since. Those bastards are independent, out of his control and they (along with USADA) find cheaters and demand they be sanctioned. Really throws a pump into the spokes of the UCI, doesn’t it? I think he should save himself all this grief and just resign his positions and enjoy his candy company pension…and maybe his puppet, the Mad Hatter can do the same?

    • Yes. There’s a story here in that Verbruggen has been running a thing called Sportaccord which is an umbrella group for sports governing bodies and also a sort of grouping for other sports and activities like martial arts and “mind games” like chess. Verbruggen was senior in the IOC for the 2008 Olympics and has since got a lot of sports events to Beijing. Like these Mind Games but also the Tour of Beijing has been directly brokered by him.

  13. What is he, 12 years old?
    I’ve seen better writing at my kid’s grade school open house.

    This doesn’t say much for him, or probably, the IOC Board, one of the most powerful organizations in the world.

  14. I agree with all of the above and in a fair world you’d think we ‘d see the last of the terrible two .Their world , however, is like FIFA and only this morning Jacques Rogge gave a huge endorsement to the way the UCI has been (is) run .Nobody should be surprised at how hard these people fight to keep their well paid positions of power and influence but that said if cycling is going to be properly taken seriously then a huge sea change at the top has to happen

  15. I am a Japanese who lives at Saitama, Japan which locates near Tokyo. Japan has bid to host 2020 Olympics. However, I am against the movement because there is a high possibility that Tokyo, which is a candidate for the host city, is encountered by a huge earthquake in the near future.

    To be more precise, there are a high possibility of occurring three big earthquakes in the near future in Japan, respectively. First is a huge aftershock of the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Second is a large-scale earthquake that will hit Tokyo area. Third is a huge Nankai Quake which may cover areas of Ibaraki prefecture to Okinawa with the potential for flooding from Tsunami. Japanese government and Metropolis of Tokyo have already pronounced the possibility and estimated damage since 2012. Tokyo area will be severely damaged by the above three earthquakes if one of them occurs in the near future (0 to 20 or 30 years according to the pronouncement).

    In addition to the damages which may be usually caused by a huge earthquake and its accompanying Tsunami, four characteristic damages have been estimated in Tokyo area.

    First is a fire on Tokyo Bay. There are so many gas tanks and oil tanks in waterfront areas along Tokyo Bay and the soils of waterfront areas are soft. Professor Masanori Hamada at Waseda University and some other experts have issued a warning that those tanks will be broken and exploded by a liquefaction, the accompanying lateral flow of soils, and sloshing phenomenon (interaction between the sloshing waves and structure) at the time of earthquake and therefore Tokyo Bay will become a “sea of fire.” If it occurs, Tokyo will become an “isolated island” which means that people staying in Tokyo cannot get foods and other necessary daily commodities for more than a week because a bay is an effective transportation means and other transportation means, such as roads, railways, and highways, will be severely damaged by the earthquake and Tsunami.

    Second is a fire of a group of old-fashioned wooden houses. In Tokyo, there are a group of wooden houses surrounded by a ring-shaped circular Loop 7. The area covers about one fourth of Tokyo and these wooden houses being tie in a row will be on fire. People who are staying in the area at the time of earthquake cannot escape anywhere because they will be surrounded.

    Third is a fire of groups of cars. Traffics of Tokyo are always crowded. Like the case of Great East Japan Earthquake, a next huge earthquake will bring such traffics of Tokyo to a halt and the roads will be crowded with cars which cannot move anywhere. Then if one car becomes fire because of fire nearby, the other cars will be exploded one by one.

    Fourth is quality of soils in Tokyo. There are so many areas whose soils are soft because of reclaimed ground of rivers, lakes and bay. Therefore, liquefaction and lateral flows of soils will occur to and fro. In addition, it is said that there are about 2000 active faults in Japan. However, as the land of Tokyo has already been hardly solidified with concrete, sufficient investigations of active faults have not been made. Therefore, we Japanese do not know where are active faults in Tokyo although there is high possibility of existence of active faults.

    As it is easily understood by now, Tokyo could be very dangerous place if a huge earthquake occurs. In spite of the facts, the Metropolis of Tokyo is trying to invite many foreigners to Tokyo during Olympic Games. It is incredible to me. I do not know how could we Japanese apologize to the invited guests and their families and friends if any one of the above huge earthquakes occurs during their stay in Tokyo.
    Kenji Mori
    152-5 Arahata, Tokorozawa, Saitama, Japan

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