Johan Bruyneel, the man who led Lance Armstrong to seven Tour de France victories, says he is feeling the weight of being “portrayed as the devil incarnate” and has hit out at what he sees as “one-sided reporting” of his role in the US Postal doping scandal.
Sacked last October as team manager at RadioShack-Nissan after the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) published its Reasoned Decision in the Armstrong case, Bruyneel, who had managed Armstrong at US Postal, Astana and RadioShack, broke his silence to speak to Belgian news magazine, Humo.
Like Armstrong, now banned for life and stripped of results including those seven Tour de France victories achieved between 1999 and 2005, Bruyneel was charged in June last year by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) with having played a role in the “most sophisticated doping scheme in the history of sport.”
While Armstrong chose not to contest USADA’s charges, Bruyneel is challenging them through arbitration – though there’s still no indication of when or even if a hearing will take place.
What is clear, however, from the quotes published on its website, is that Bruyneel feels hard done by, and that he’s prepared to fight his corner.
"I'm not the devil incarnate,” he insisted. “I am however keen to speak my mind, but my lawyers have instructed me to remain silent,” adding that while it was okay for others to use words against him, he found that gag “very frustrating.”
"There are few people who really know me,” he went on. “It could be that I come across as a cool customer if I take hard professional decisions, but I'm actually quite different to that. I think a good thing, because I like to keep that separate."
He seemed less detached when talking about the accusations levelled against him, however.
"It bothers me that my name is blackened that way because I am no devil or whatever. The general public thinks of the one-sided reporting, but I am convinced that this picture will change and everyone will understand the situation in time,” he added cryptically.
Bruyneel maintained that he had never required a rider to dope – very much at odds with the evidence presented in USADA’s Reasoned Decision – and says that Armstrong was targeted as a big name.
“His head was chopped off, and mine’s on the block too,” he said, but added, “I don’t feel bitter.”
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.