Verbruggen pressured ex-sports minister over Olympic bid — Le Figaro
The French daily Le Figaro reported this week that Hein Verbruggen played a key role in pressuring a former French sports minister to not apply France’s new anti-doping rules in a bid to host the 2008 Olympic Games.
Testifying before the French senate on the effectiveness of the fight against doping, former sports minister Marie-George Buffet said Verbruggen and other International Olympic Committee members pressured her to ease up on anti-doping enforcement if Paris wanted to host the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Buffet, who made headlines as the sports minister during the Festina Affaire that rocked the 1998 Tour de France, testified before a senate inquiry that members of the IOC pressured her to not apply all aspects a new French anti-doping law that was created in the early 2000s if Paris were awarded the 2008 Games.
“The [Paris] application was supervised by Mr. Verbruggen, chairman of the UCI and IOC member who then chaired the [selection] delegation,” Le Figaro quoted Buffet. “Pressures were exerted through Verbruggen, but also other members of the IOC … asking me to write a letter stating that French law does not apply in its entirety during the Games. It was extremely strong pressure. A letter was delivered to Mr. Verbruggen at the top of the Eifel Tower.”
Beijing later won the bid to host the 2008 Summer Games and Verbruggen served as the IOC’s top man in the Chinese capital.
Buffet also testified that she was pressured to back off ahead of the FIFA World Cup in 1998. She got in hot water after ordering surprise doping controls on the French soccer team weeks ahead of the event, which France hosted and won.