Pierre Bordry, former head of the French national doping agency, the AFLD, says that then President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, forced him out of his post in 2010 at the request of Lance Armstrong. Speaking to French news magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, Bordry is now calling for a parliamentary inquiry into the politicians, doctors, businessmen and sport officials whom he says protected Armstrong.
The magazine also says that the UCI’s insistence that it should take responsibility for drug-testing at the 2009 Tour de France, relegating the AFLD to the role of spectator, was directly motivated by a desire to protect Armstrong in what would be his comeback in the race he won seven times between 1999 and 2005.
The claim that Sarkozy, acting at the request of Armstrong following a July 2010 dinner at the Elysée Palace, was behind Bordry’s departure from the AFLD – he left after the sports ministry slashed its budget – is not a new one, but the four-page article in the current edition of the weekly magazine headlined ‘Qui a couvert Lance Armstrong?’ (Who protected Lance Armstrong) goes into greater detail than has previously been the case.
Bordry, now aged 72, resigned from his position in September 2010 and while he gave no specific reasons for his departure at the time, during his five year tenure he regularly criticised the government for cuts to the agency’s funding and also clashed swords with Armstrong on numerous occasions after his return to the sport in 2009.
The Nouvel Observateur says that it was a self-projected aura of invincibility from Armstrong that led to his fall, starting with his decision to make his comeback in what the magazine described as a “Tour too much.”
It points out that Armstrong had powerful allies who had a vested interest in maintaining that he had won those seven Tour de France titles clean, starting with Sarkozy who saw him as an invaluable ambassador for tourism, down to race organisers ASO, keen to protect the image of what the article describes as its “cash cow,” as well as governing body the UCI.
However, Michel Rieu, a close ally of Bordry’s at the AFLD, where he is scientific advisor, told the magazine of Armstrong’s emergence from retirement: “This time, we were waiting to catch him out since we’d had very strong suspicions for a long time.”
In 2009, Bordry had warned Armstrong that the AFLD might seek to prevent him from taking part in his comeback Tour de France due to the Texan’s lack of co-operation with its officials during a random test conducted while he was training.
The AFLD was powerless to prevent the apparent warnings that Armstrong is said to have received during the run-up to the race and during the three weeks of the Tour itself, where he finished third behind Astana team mate Alberto Contador and Saxo Bank’s Andy Schleck.
The launch of a federal investigation in the United States regarding the alleged misuse of public funds at Armstrong’s former US Postal team, however, gave the AFLD the opportunity to co-operate with law enforcement officials on the other side of the Atlantic as well as the United States Anti-Doping Agency, which would continue to pursue him after the federal inquiry was shelved earlier this year.
By then, Bordry had long departed the AFLD, his fate said to have been sealed at a dinner attended by Armstrong at the Elysée Palace in July 2010, hosted by Sarkozy who had made little secret of his admiration for the cyclist.
“Armstrong told me about it himself,” Bordry explained to the Nouvel Observateur, saying “he boasted in front of me of having called for my head from the President. I asked for a denial from the Elysée, even a private one, but never received a reply. I was shocked.”
Instead, two months later, Bordry was told that the AFLD’s budget was being slashed by half, with the article clearly. Demoralised, he resigned, and the clear implication is that the cut in funding was authorised by Sarkozy in compliance with Armstrong’s wish that Bordry be removed.
Armstrong himself greeted news of Bordry’s departure from the agency in September 2010 with a three-word message on Twitter that read “Au Revoir Pierre.”
What the Texan didn’t realise was that despite cutting off its head, the AFLD would continue to play a role in the case being built against him, including providing evidence regarding his blood values at the 2009 Tour to US investigators.
While the UCI has so far refused to acknowledge that Armstrong doped following his comeback, by upholding USADA’s reasoned decision in full without challenging findings related to that period means that indirectly, it has vindicated Bordry and the AFLD’s persistence.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.