Report: Did Nike pay $500,000 to Verbruggen to cover up Armstrong positive?

By Cyclingnews.com | Tuesday, October 16, 2012 2.38pm

This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.

The New York Daily News has suggested that sportswear company Nike decided to stay loyal to Lance Armstrong despite the overwhelming evidence of doping against him because it may have played an active part in what USADA described as “the most sophisticated doping program in sports history”.

The NY Daily News reports that Kathy LeMond testified under oath during a 2006 deposition in the SCA arbitration case that Julian Devries, a mechanic for Armstrong’s team, had told her and others that Nike and Thom Weisel –the San Francisco banker who sponsored and part-owned Armstrong’s team - had transferred $500,000 to a Swiss bank account that belonged to Verbruggen.

The money was apparently sent to cover up a 1999 positive drug test for corticosteroids, which Armstrong had used to treat saddle sores.

Armstrong’s former soigneur Emma O’Reilly, backed up the claims that the positive test was covered up in an affidavit to USADA. Armstrong has always claimed that he never tested positive for drugs.

She said she heard Armstrong and other Postal Service team members talking about how they would get Luis Garcia del Moral, the team physician, to write a backdated prescription for the steroid cream.

In an interview with the Daily News on Monday, Kathy Lemond said she stood by her testimony. “I’m sure Julian was telling the truth,” she said.

Nike, which has stated their backing of Armstrong in the face of recent doping revelations released a statement: "In response to the offensive allegations in today's New York Daily News, Nike vehemently denies that it paid former UCI president Hein Verbruggen $500,000 to cover up a positive drug test. Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs."

Armstrong’s lawyer Mark Fabiani also rubbished the accusations.

“We have absolutely no idea what Mrs. LeMond, a long-time Lance-hater, was talking about when she gave her deposition,” the NY Daily Post quote Fabiani as saying. “And to this day we have no idea what she was talking about.”

Paul Willerton, a former professional cyclist who rode for the US alongside Lance Armstrong during two world championship road races, has told Cyclingnews that he and other riders plan to protest against Nike support for Armstrong outside the Nike corporate headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, on Tuesday.

"This is akin to taking down the Berlin Wall," Willerton said of the USADA investigation and subsequent rider confessions. "And Nike's position - they're so influential - and right now they're just sitting on the wrong side of this wall."

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