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BERLIN (Reuters) - The former president of the international cycling union (UCI), Hein Verbruggen, who was in charge during the reign of disgraced doping offender Lance Armstrong and spearheaded preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, has died aged 75.
The Dutchman headed the UCI from 1991 to 2005 and long rejected claims he was too lenient with the American cyclist, who has since admitted to years of systematic doping and was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life.
An independent commission in 2015 found the UCI management team under Verbruggen, a long-time former International Olympic Committee (IOC) member, showed leniency, especially towards Armstrong, in the fight against doping.
"The UCI is sad to hear about the passing of former President and IOC Member Hein Verbruggen. Our thoughts are with his family and friends," the UCI said.
Verbruggen was also an IOC member from 1996 to 2008, before becoming an honorary member, and led the IOC's coordination commission for the preparations of the Beijing Olympics.
"Hein Verbruggen was a fearless fighter for his sport. Thanks to his great engagement and his management skills, he greatly contributed to the success of... Beijing 2008 as Chair of the Coordination Commission. For this he will be always remembered," IOC President Thomas Bach said.
Bach said flags at the IOC headquarters in Switzerland would be flown at half-staff.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by John O'Brien