Landisgate: French Cycling Federation calls in former Phonak boss

French federation looks to see if there is a case to answer

by Tony Farrelly   June 16, 2010  

Floyd Landis (copyright ColinEdwards99:Wikimedia Commons).jpg

John Lelangue current directeur sportif of the BMC Racing Team has been interviewed by the French Cycling Federation (FFC) over allegations made by Floyd Landis about doping by members of the Phonak cycling team in 2006 when Lelangue was directeur sportif.

While much has inevitably been made of Landis' allegations about Lance Armstrong and other members of the then US Postal cycling team, his fall from grace at the 2006 Tour de France occurred when he was riding for Phonak of which the Belgian, Lelangue was Directeur Sportif at the time.

Lelangue was employed by Phonak in 2005 in an attempt to clean up the team and its image which had heavily tarnished by doping scandals the previous year leaking to the team sacking Tyler Hamilton and two other riders. As a result Phonak was initially banned from the competing in the ProTour in 2005 that ban was revoked by the UCI in no small part due to the appointment of Lelangue who had previously worked for Tour de France organisers, ASO. Phonak eventually finished second in the ProTour rankings that year. I

Landis alleged that a system of systematic doping was instituted at Phonak (at his suggestion) with the funding and approval of the team management and the main sponsor. Lelangue has always maintained that he knew nothing about any doping by Phonak riders.

Speaking to the media after the FFC's questioning of Lelangue earlier this week, David Lappartient, president of the FFC, told L’Equipe:

“This special commission has full powers to instruire à charge et à décharge” – a reference to the French inquisitorial legal process in which the magistrate or other person investigating a case considers the evidence from the point of view of both the prosecution and the defence, it can also bring a charge or dismiss the case.

“Doubtless it had some specific questions to ask,” he continued, “but I am unaware whether there will be any further hearings. This isn’t a disciplinary body, but a commission of inquiry. Its report will help determine whether there are grounds to open a procedure.”

John Lelangue is Belgian but his licence is issued by the French federation, hence any enquiry in to allegations against him is under their jurisdiction, but at the behest of the UCI which has also asked other cycling federations to investigate any allegations against their licence holders. The Belgian cycling authorities are exepect to speak to John Bruyneel soon, while Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie and George Hincapie are likely to face question from US cycling authorities but also  USADA, the US anti-doping body, and from an enquiry set up by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

All of the senior Phonak figures implicated by Landis: Lelangue, Andy Rihs (who owns BMC bikes), and Jim Ochowitz are central players in the current BMC Racing Team all deny the allegations.