Johan Bruyneel: "I'm done with cycling" - but cycling isn't done with him
Ex-USPS manager speaks ahead of next month's arbitration hearing in London
Johan Bruyneel, manager of the US Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams on all seven of Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France victories from 1999 to 2005, has said he is finished with cycling.
The Belgian, who was reunited with Armstrong at Astana when the latter came out of retirement in 2009, both moving on to the new RadioShack team the following season, broke the news in a video interview with Luxembourg-based TV channel, RTL.
“I’ve made a decision that I’m pretty much done with cycling – I don’t see a change,” said the 49-year-old, who now lives in London, where the interview was filmed.
Cycling isn’t done with Bruyneel yet, however.
In June last year the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) charged him, alongside Armstrong and others, with having “engaged in a massive doping conspiracy from 1998-2011."
In the letter setting out its charges, USADA said: “Numerous riders will testify that Mr. Bruyneel gave to them and/or encouraged them to use doping products and/or prohibited methods, including EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, HGH and cortisone during the period from 1999 through 2007.”
Armstrong eventually chose not to fight the charges, and was banned for life and stripped of results including those seven Tour de France victories. In January this year, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, he belatedly confessed to doping. Two doctors, Michele Ferrari and Luis Garcia del Moral, were also banned from involvement with sport for life.
Bruyneel, however, has chosen to contest the charges through arbitration, as have former team doctors Pedro Celaya and Jose Marti, with a hearing scheduled to take place in London from 16-20 December.
In its Reasoned Decision on the Armstrong case, USADA said:
The overwhelming evidence in this case is that Johan Bruyneel was intimately involved in all significant details of the U.S. Postal team’s doping program. He alerted the team to the likely presence of testers. He communicated with Dr. Ferrari about his stars’ doping programs. He was on top of the details for organizing blood transfusion programs before the major Tours, and he knew when athletes needed to take EPO to regenerate their blood supply after extracting blood. He was present when blood transfusions were given. He even personally provided drugs to the riders on occasion.
Most perniciously, Johan Bruyneel learned how to introduce young men to performance enhancing drugs, becoming adept at leading them down the path from newly minted professional rider to veteran drug user.
Bruyneel, sacked by RadioShack-Nissan-Trek after the Reasoned Decision was published, insisted in his interview with RTL: “I don’t see myself as the devil, people are trying to picture myself and Lance as the bad guys.”
The interview comes at a time when it looks likely that Armstrong will testify before the independent inquiry that Brian Cookson, elected UCI president in September, has ordered into doping.
Bruyneel told RTL that although he trusts Brian Cookson, he does not believe that cycling’s culture of doping can be changed overnight.