By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer
Lance Armstrong, the famous international cyclist who battled cancer to continue racing, confessed this past January to cheating with performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). His successful cancer charity, the Livestrong Foundation, suffered the loss of mega sponsors like Nike after Armstrong’s lies were exposed. Even a documentary called The Road Back, which was supposed to be about Armstrong’s triumphant comeback after retirement, turned into The Armstrong Lie, a movie about his cheating.
Now, Armstrong claimed on Monday that the former president of the International Cycling Union (which governs the sport of cycling), Hein Verbruggen, helped him cover up the drug use at the 1999 Tour de France. He told the Daily Mail that Verbruggen suggested “we’ve got to come up with something” in order to explain why Armstrong’s drug tests for the banned corticosteroid came back positive.
This would end up being Armstrong’s first of seven Tour de France victories, setting the stage for his rise to power and fame.
The motivation for Verbruggen’s supposed involvement is simple. The 1998 Tour de France had PED issues, and cycling was starting to be viewed as a non-competitive sport for cheaters. So, by 1999, it was in danger of not being taken seriously by the public! “The real problem was, the sport was on life supported,” explains Armstrong. “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.”
As for the International Cycling Union, they responded on Monday by challenging “individuals to provide evidence” and urging “all those involved to come forward and help the Commission in its work in the best interests of the sport of cycling.” The organization went on to say, “This investigation is essential to the well-being of cycling in fully understanding the doping culture of the past, the role of the UCI at that time and helping us all to move forward to a clean and healthy future.”
Considering that Lance Armstrong was stripped of his 7 Tour de France victories, if cyclists continue doping, their entire careers could come crashing down in flames.
Featured image courtesy of The Armstrong Lie and Sony Pictures Classics on YouTube. Image of International Cycling Union headquarters in Switzerland courtesy of Drake on Wikipedia.