Lance Armstrong claims former Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) president Hein Verbruggen was directly involved in covering up his positive test for corticosteroid during the 1999 Tour de France.
According to Matt Lawton of the Daily Mail, the startling allegations came as Armstrong—who was last year stripped of his seven Tour de France wins—sat down with whistleblower Emma O’Reilly in Florida.
. @Emma_OReilly - agreed. Thanks a lot Emma. Great to see you.— Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) November 18, 2013
Armstrong’s now-infamous positive test in 1999 came one year after the "Festina Affair," which was the biggest drug scandal to hit the sport before Armstrong himself was exposed.
The American escaped punishment when the decision was made to backdate a prescription for saddle sores, per Martyn Ziegler of the Press Association via the Daily Mail, and now he claims Verbruggen was a major player in the cover-up.
Speaking with Lawton, Armstrong said:
It's funny, these stories are so prevalent in my life. What I remember was there being a problem. I'm not sure if it was a positive but there were traces found.
The real point is that, the sport was on life support. And Hein just said, "This is a real problem for me, this is the knockout punch for our sport, the year after Festina ... so we've got to come up with something."
Verbruggen, who is an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and his successor Pat McQuaid have vigorously denied reports of corruption inside the UCI over the last number of years, according to Cycling News.
But with Armstrong tasting blood, it appears things will get uglier before they get better.
The 42-year-old has said he is willing to work with the governing body and new president Brian Cookson to expose the major players who helped him cheat the world of cycling for over a decade, according to Lawton.
To think I am protecting any of these guys after the way they treated me, that is ludicrous. I'm not protecting them at all. I have no loyalty towards them. I'm not going to lie to protect these guys. I hate them. They threw me under the bus. I'm done with them.
The Texan has publicly admitted he wants his lifetime ban reduced, and this is likely the motivation behind his willingness to help with any Truth and Reconciliation Commission that may arise. His Ironman ambitions have been well documented, but his current ban prevents him from competing in such events.
The meeting in Florida was the first time O’Reilly, a former soigneur with U.S. Postal, and Armstrong had met since he defamed the Irishwoman by calling her “an alcoholic prostitute,” according to Ben Rankin in the Mirror.
O’Reilly spoke out about Armstrong and the activities inside U.S. Postal when she became concerned about the pressure on young cyclists to turn to substance abuse in order to compete at the highest level.
During Armstrong’s infamous interview with Oprah, he named O’Reilly as one of the people he would like to apologise to in person.
The disgraced former champion still has a lot of talking to do if he is to win back the respect of his legions of fans, if that's even at all possible.
But for O'Reilly, at least, there is closure of sorts. She was one of the people who suffered most during Armstrong's reign of power, and maybe now she can put the sordid affair behind her.
Verbruggen has yet to respond to Armstrong's latest accusations.