UCI let Lance escape in '99

London: Evidence uncovered by French newspaper Le Monde suggests that the UCI, world cycling's governing body, accepted Lance Armstrong's backdated and fake prescription for cortisone in 1999 but failed to apply its own rules which would have resulted in the disgraced US rider being banned.

Armstrong has confirmed that he organised to have a cortisone prescription backdated to cover up a drug-test result during the 1999 Tour de France.

This comes as the former head of the UCI, Hein Verbruggen, admitted that the world body used to warn cyclists, including Armstrong, if they had suspect values in their blood-test results.

Verbruggen told Dutch magazine Vrij Nederland that riders and team managers were invited to UCI headquarters in Switzerland for a presentation by Dr Mario Zorzoli to try to dissuade them from taking drugs. "You might convince them not to use doping, or you might not," said Verbruggen.

Armstrong was warned in 2001 about his suspicious blood values. "It was hard for me," Verbruggen said. "You know more than you can say."

Le Monde's evidence centres on a document, which shows Armstrong failed to declare taking cortisone at the time of submitting to a drug test, which should have resulted in a ban.

Cyclists have to routinely declare any medications they are taking on the drug-test form. But the 1999 form, signed by Armstrong and team manager Johan Bruyneel, shows the handwritten word "neant" (nought) next to the question about medicines. Such notification is supposed to be used by the testers to recognise topical or therapeutic notification of cortisone, which was sometimes used to treat saddle sores.

If cyclists did not make the declaration on the form and duly tested positive, the UCI rule 43 said: "The test result shall be considered as a positive and the rider shall be sanctioned even when he produces a medical certificate after the test." The sanction was a six-month ban.

At the time, the UCI believed Armstrong and ignored its own rules. A statement said: "The UCI (confirms) that the rider used the ointment Cemalyt. The UCI ... affirms that such use is permitted by the rules, and does not constitute doping."

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