Leopard SA the company that owns the Radioshack Nissan Trek cycling team has released a statement on the Unitied States Anti Doping Agency's (USADA) decision to charge its sporting director Johan Bruyneel with engaging in a "massive doping conspiracy" over a 13 year period.
While noting that the USADA charges relate to a period before Bruyneel's involvement with the team - although only just - it concludes ominously for Bruyneel:
"Leopard S.A will take all appropriate measures, in order to guarantee it's sporting integrity and the general interest of cycling."
Leopard SA's statement will be viewed as a first step to putting clear daylight between Bruyneel and the team and warding off the possibility of any Tour de France ban for the team - however remote. Some will no doubt question what an organisation that gives such great importance to its "sporting integrity" was doing getting involved with Bruyneel in the first place given the allegations, suspicions, and rumour that have surrounded him for much of his career.
Radioshack Nissan Trek formed at the end of last year with the mergers of the Radioshack and Leopard Trek teams. Under the terms of the merger the new team continued to be owned by Leopard SA, based in Luxembourg, and raced on the original Leopard Trek ProTour licence - Radioshack provided a number of riders plus the management of both the sporting and marketing sides of the team.
Leopard's stated intention when announcing the merger of the two teams was to take its fledgling super-team to the next level. However almost from the start things have gone wrong with Bruyneel's management style and methods clearly grating with his new star riders, the Schleck brothers. In recent weeks their disenchantment with Bruyneel has manifested in poor form, with Frank Schleck leaving the Giro d'Italia early and Andy Schleck off the pace and finally crashing out of the Criterium du Dauphiné last week with both Bruyneel and the Schleck's airing their grievances in the media.
The team has also been unlucky with injuries with its other star rider, Fabian Cancellara suffering a badly broken collarbone when he crashed at Paris Roubaix. On the day the USADA charges against Bruyneel came to light it had earlier been announced that the injury suffered by Andy Schleck in his Dauphiné had been more serious than first suspected and that he would not be riding this year's Tour de France - thus more or less ending any chance the team might have had of securing overall victory - although his brother Frank must still be rated a contender for a place on the podium. However the team's actual participation in the Tour has also been called in to question with the French media speculating that Tour de France organiser, ASO was contemplating un-inviting them due to the shadow hanging over Bruyneel. That seems unlikely although when questioned on Thursday Tour boss Christian Prudhomme gave a somewhat ambiguous response.
If as seems likely this statement heralds the beginning of the end of Bruyneel's involvement with the team it may merely have brought forward the inevitable conclusion to the power struggles within the team with Leopard SA's Luxembourg-based owner Flavio Becca reportedly having thrown his support behind the Schlecks.
Leopard S.A Statement
LEOPARD S.A. (with its cycling team known as « RADIOSHACK NISSAN TREK ») has been informed of the content of the document whereby the USADA has opened formal disciplinary proceedings against some individuals, including Mr Johan BRUYNEEL.
After a first review of this document, LEOPARD S.A. takes note that none of the investigated facts relate to its cycling team, to its riders or to the present activities of Mr Bruyneel within the LEOPARD S.A. structure. Indeed, these alleged facts report exclusively to events that took place prior to the start of the collaboration between LEOPARD S.A. and Mr Bruyneel.
LEOPARD S.A. stepped into cycling with the firm commitment of actively promoting a « zero doping » policy. In this context, and in the light of the possible development of the case, LEOPARD S.A. will take all appropriate measures, in order to guarantee its sporting integrity and the general interest of cycling.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.