UCI chief speaks at cycling drug trial

Richard Virenque is the only cyclist on trial at the Festina drug case  Credit: Pascal Rondeau/Allsport
LILLE, France (AP) — The head of the International Cycling Union testified Tuesday that officials have tried to prevent the use banned substances to improve athletic performance but that ultimate responsibility rests with the athlete.

"The cyclist is responsible for what he takes,'' ICU President Hein Verbruggen said during five hours of testimony before a court in Lille. "It is his choice."

Verbruggen was summoned to testify in the trial of Richard Virenque, the star of the Festina cycling team, and eight of his former colleagues, who face a variety of drug-related charges stemming from a drug scandal during the 1998 Tour de France.

Verbruggen also said his organization, which he has headed since 1991, has dedicated about one percent of its budget over the last five years about $257,000 toward drug prevention.

"I am not at all guilty, not at all responsible," he said. "We have made serious efforts to combat this scourge."

Virenque, the only cyclist on trial, is charged with "complicity in facilitating and inciting the use of doping," but not with taking drugs, even though he admitted in court testimony to taking them.

The team was expelled from the race after a stash of products, notably the performance-enhancer EPO, was found in a team car.

In earlier testimony, the wife of a former trainer of the Festina team said the refrigerator of their home was stocked with drugs for the riders, including the banned drug, EPO.

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