Armstrong-era cycling president dies aged 75

Hein Verbruggen attends a meeting as IOC Coordination Commission chairman for the 2008 Olympics.
Hein Verbruggen attends a meeting as IOC Coordination Commission chairman for the 2008 Olympics.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LAUSANNE • Hein Verbruggen, former president of the International Cycling Union (UCI) and one of the most prominent sports administrators of his time, has died of leukaemia. He was 75.

The Dutchman, head of the UCI between 1991 and 2005, was heavily implicated in the doping scandals that rocked elite cycling when he ran the sport.

Most notable in that era was the case of American Lance Armstrong, who defeated cancer to go on and win seven straight Tour de France races from 1999 to 2005.

The fallen US cycling hero later admitted taking banned substances. He was stripped of his titles in 2012 and banned from the sport for life.

Verbruggen, also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) between 1996 and 2005 and again from 2006 to 2008, was accused by an independent commission in 2015 of trying to shield Armstrong from investigation.

"Hein Verbruggen was a fearless fighter for his sport. Thanks to his great engagement and his management skills, he greatly contributed to the success of Beijing 2008 as Chair of the Coordination Commission. For this he will be always remembered," IOC president Thomas Bach said.

The IOC, in a statement yesterday, also dubbed Verbruggen, who also headed the SportAccord Convention of international sports federations from 2003 to 2013, "a cycling fanatic and a true sports fan".

UCI president Brian Cookson expressed his condolences through Twitter.

"I am sad to hear of the passing of Hein Verbruggen and offer my sincere personal condolences to his family and friends," he wrote.

The IOC said that as a mark of respect, the Olympic flag will be flown at half-mast at its headquarters in Lausanne.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2017, with the headline 'Armstrong-era cycling president dies aged 75'. Print Edition | Subscribe