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The curious case of Armstrong’s UCI donation(s)

BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — It’s long been reported that Lance Armstrong paid the Union Cycliste Internationale $100,000 in 2002 — money that, ironically, went toward the sport’s anti-doping efforts. It appears now that Armstrong paid $25,000 of that in 2002, and then an additional $100,000 in 2007, for a total of $125,000.

What’s less clear is why the UCI, cycling’s governing body, sought the money from any rider, past or present, at all. In his interview with Oprah Winfrey last week, the fallen star said his donation was “not in exchange for help. They called and said they didn’t have a lot of money — I did. They asked if I would make a donation so I did.”

So he did, twice. The money was used to buy a Sysmex machine, used to analyze blood samples. The UCI has flatly denied the donation was a bribe, something Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton, former teammates and admitted dopers, have claimed.

Armstrong pledged to make the second donation, via an agent, in 2005, according to the UCI’s spokesman, Enrico Carpani. That was a “second contribution in the fight against doping,” according to an e-mail to VeloNews from Carpani.

But why was the governing body, according to Armstrong at least, panhandling from former pros? The UCI didn’t say when asked why it sought a donation from Armstrong, or if it’s the governing body’s standard practice to ask riders for money.

“We assume that Lance Armstrong’s comment in the interview refers to the fact that he was reminded of his promise in 2005 and 2006. The amount was eventually paid in January 2007,” Carpani said.

Representatives for Armstrong didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment.