BRUSSELS (AP) — Hein Verbruggen, the former president of the International Cycling Union who oversaw the worldwide spread of a sport often tainted by doping, has died. He was 75.
The UCI and the International Olympic Committee both reacted to the news on Wednesday, underscoring the Dutchman’s clout within both organizations.
The IOC flew its flag at half staff and Dutch King Willem-Alexander, a former IOC member, called him “a man with a big heart for the Olympic movement, for cycling and those close to him.”
Dutch cycling association spokesman Kevin Leenheers confirmed the death, saying Verbruggen died on Tuesday night.
Critics said Verbruggen was too close to those involved in doping. He was often confronted for his relationship with Lance Armstrong, the American rider who was the face of cycling with his seven Tour de France victories before he came to embody the abuse of performance-enhancing drugs.
Time and again Verbruggen faced accusers saying he was colluding with dopers instead of countering them. Just as often, he fought back to save his tarnished reputation. He proclaimed his innocence until his death.
Verbruggen was a consummate businessman all his life, yet he was never able to shake the doping scandals during his reign.
The reason for his opposition to doping was simple, he said.
“I want to get rid of…