Gerhard Heiberg, the Norwegian business and sports leader who’s a longtime member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), says he’s “disgusted” by the doping admission of former Olympic and Tour de France champion cyclist Lance Armstrong. He called Armstrong’s doping the worst in the history of sport.
“I would say that this is the worst we’ve been subjected to,” Heiberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday, after Armstrong admitted in an interview with US talk show host OprahWinfrey that he’d used illegal substances to enhance his cycling performance in every Tour de France from 1999 to 2005. Armstrong himself referred to his earlier vehement denials of doping use as “one big lie.”
“This is even bigger than with Ben Johnson, which was a big case during the Olympics in Seoul,” Heiberg told NRK. He added that he was overwhelmed by the scope of Armstrong’s drug use,and “hadn’t believed” that Armstrong would have “doped himself as much as he’s done.” Heiberg said he felt avsky (disgust) because Armstrong was such a strong personality and earlier had so strongly denied the doping charges against him.
Armstrong, Heiberg noted, had portrayed himself as a symbol of an athlete who battled cancer and became the best in his sport. Instead it was all based on cheating: “He has fooled the entire sport of cycling and international athletics,” Heiberg told NRK. “This is a bomb, no doubt about that.”
He doesn’t agree, though, with his fellow IOC colleague Dick Pound’s proposal that cycling be removed as an Olympic sport. “Cycling is interesting for the Olympics and if riders are clean, they must be allowed to continue,” Heiberg said. “I see no reason to ban cycling from the next Olympics in Rio, but we must follow it closely.”
Heiberg himself, though, was criticized by Norwegian cycling expert Johan Kaggestad who thinks Heiberg and the IOC will be considered cowards if they don’t expel the former president of the international cycling association UCI, Hein Verbruggen. Kaggestad claimed Verbruggen, who headed the cyclists from 1991 until 2005 when Armstrong was on his now-fraudulent winning streak, ignored Armstrong’s doping use.
Armstrong also sent money to the UCI, Kaggestad noted, but Armstrong claimed he didn’t pay them to prevent them from revealing him. He said they (UCI officials) asked for money because they were having hard times, and he paid.
Kaggestad, an economist who headed NIKE International for 10 years and coached long-distance Norwegian runners including Grete Waitz and Ingrid Kristiansen, said the IOC members should still “set an example” and distance themselves from Verbruggen, who is now an honorary member of the IOC. “They’re cowards if they don’t,” he told NRK. “The IOC needs to clean up themselves.”
He also reacted to Heiberg’s surprise over Armstrong’s doping admissions. “This was no surprise, said Kaggestad, who has been TV2’s cycling commentator for several years. “It was a confirmation.”
Heiberg defended the IOC and said it was “strange” that cycling officials would blame the IOC. “It’s Mr Kaggestad who should have known about this and done something about it,” Heiberg told NRK. He said it was unlikely the IOC would take any action against Hein Verbruggen for now, even though Verbruggen perhaps was “a bit stupid and naive,” but would monitor the cycling sport closely.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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