A blood doping expert says a suggestion by a top cycling official that Lance Armstrong never took illegal drugs is “flabbergasting”.
Hein Verbruggen, honorary president of the International Cycling Union, is quoted in the US Anti-Doping Agency’s Armstrong report as saying in 2011: “Armstrong has never used doping.”
Dr Michael Ashenden told BBC Radio 5 live: “Any reasonable person would have at least said there was doubt.”
Verbruggen denies making the comments.
Ashenden, who has been an independent reviewer of blood profiles in cycling since 2008, continued: “For the honorary president of [cycling’s governing body] the UCI to say he [Armstrong] hadn’t doped, in the face of everything, I really have to question what his motives were to say that.”
“It has been difficult to understand where they [the UCI] have sat with all this. You have the quotes from Hein Verbruggen saying he was sure [that Armstrong hadn’t doped] and I find that absolutely flabbergasting.”
Armstrong has been provisionally stripped of the seven Tour de France titles he won between 1999 and 2005 afterUsada last week published a report that labelled him a “serial” cheat who led “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”.
The report followed Armstrong’s decision not to contest allegations of doping in August. The removal of his Tour titles and accompanying lifetime ban is still to be ratified by the UCI.
The Usada “reasoned decision” on the Armstrong case quotes Verbruggen as saying in May 2011: “There is nothing. I repeat again: Lance Armstrong has never used doping. Never, never, never.
“And I say this not because I am a friend of his, because that is not true. I say it because I’m sure.”
Ashenden also raised questions about a “triangle” that has been revealed apparently involving Armstrong, the UCI and a drug-testing laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland, as a result of a payment in excess of $100,000 (£62,200) the American cyclist made to the sport’s governing body.
The UCI admitted it accepted a donation from Armstrong in 2002, but strongly denies it was connected to any cover-up of a positive test.
The head of the drug-testing laboratory acknowledges meeting Armstrong at about the same time, while the lab was also allowed by the UCI to use a blood analysing machine for free.
As part of the Usada report, Armstrong’s former US Postal team-mate Tyler Hamilton has testified that Armstrong “bragged he had managed to have a positive finding covered up”.
“The UCI should never have accepted money from Armstrong under any circumstances,” said Ashenden.
“But if they took money after they were aware there were grounds to suspect Armstrong had used EPO, it takes on a really sinister complexion.
“We know Armstrong paid the UCI more than $100,000 and around that time the UCI gave the Lausanne laboratory free use of a blood analyser worth $60,000 to $70,000.
“That’s what I mean by a triangle. The laboratory meets with Armstrong. All of this takes place at about the time that [former Armstrong team-mates] Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton said under oath that Armstrong bragged he had managed to have a result covered up.”