By Agence France Presse
The former president of the German Cycling Federation (BDR), Sylvia Schenk, has hit out at the UCI for what she claims is the organization’s willingness to “brush aside” the Lance Armstrong affair.
Schenk, who has been at loggerheads with UCI president Hein Verbruggen for the past few months, said cycling’s world ruling body is only interested in finding out who leaked information about the alleged positive doping tests of the seven-time Tour de France winner, and not in the case itself.
The German official told reporters that Verbruggen is more intent up finding the source of leaks than dealing with the allegations raised three weeks ago by the newspaper L’Equipe
“The UCI and its president Hein Verbruggen are more interested in finding the leak than clearing up the Armstrong doping case.”
The French sports daily L’Equipe claimed Armstrong’s 1999 urine samples tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin).
Interestingly, in conference call with reporters on Thursday, World Anti-Doping Agency head Dick Pound said he was convinced that the information L’Equipe used to link numbered-but-anonymous laboratory results to riders’ names actually came from Verbruggen himself.
Pound said he had a letter from Verbruggen that left him with the impression that it was the UCI president who provided the critical link to L’Equipe.
Since the fall-out from the allegations, Verbruggen – who is hoping his hand-chosen successor, Ireland’s Pat McQuaid, will be voted the new boss of world cycling next week – has refused to point the finger at the American.
Instead, in a recent interview with Le Figaro newspaper the Dutchman appeared more interested in slamming WADA’s Pound, who said following the Armstrong affair that it looked likely the American had been doping.
“We’re going to be looking further into this affair,” Verbruggen said last week. “It’s another heavy blow to cycling so we have to take it all the way. And I also want to know who exactly it was who gave out this information.”
Schenk believes the UCI are burying their heads, and simply wanted to restrict their investigation to finding out who leaked the information to L’Equipe.
“Verbruggen is making slower progress than expected because it was thought that it was someone in the French Ministry,” explained Schenk. “However, it could be that the informer is a UCI employee. The only thing the UCI are concerned with is finding out the identity of the informants who brought this case to light.”
A UCI statement recently said they would take no action against Armstrong over the doping accusations and Schenk feels the American cycling icon has received special treatment.
“Since 1998 the UCI has done a lot to combat doping but everything is different where Armstrong is concerned,” added Schenk, who stoked the flames a few months ago when she filed an official complaint with the UCI claiming that, against UCI rules, McQuaid was benefiting from UCI payments and an apartment in Switzerland.
Schenk also pointed to the fact that Armstrong, shortly after a damaging book – David Walsh’s “LA Confidential” – was published claiming he had regularly used doping products, handed Verbruggen a hefty check to be used in the fight against doping.
At the time, Verbruggen made no secret of the American’s gift.
“There is obviously a strong relationship with Armstrong,” Schenk added. “The UCI took a lot of money from Armstrong – to my knowledge 500,000 dollars – and now there is speculation that there are financial connections to Armstrong, as well as the American market. I do not know what sort of connections Verbruggen has.”
Armstrong, who turns 34 on Sunday, has protested his innocence and said he is considering returning to the Tour next July as a result of the latest accusations.