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AFP / Yuzuru Sunada
The US Anti-Doping Agency on Tuesday banned Lance Armstrong’s former sports director Johan Bruyneel from all sport for 10 years over his role in drug-taking in cycling. A US sports arbitration panel found Bruyneel, former US Postal team doctor Pedro Celaya and team trainer Jose ‘Pepe’ Marti guilty of multiple doping violations, the agency said.
“The evidence establishes conclusively that Mr. Bruyneel was at the apex of a conspiracy to commit widespread doping on the USPS and Discovery Channel teams spanning many years and many riders,” said a USADA statement. “Similarly, Dr. Celaya and Mr. Marti were part of, or at least allowed themselves to be used as instruments of, that conspiracy.”
Following the hearings by an independent three-member panel of the American Arbitration Association for the North American Court of Arbitration for Sport (AAA) Bruyneel copped a 10-year ban from sport while Celaya and Marti were both given eight years. It means five former support personnel at Armstrong’s old team have now received bans following the lifetime suspensions given to doctors Michele Ferrari and Luis Garcia del Moral. Armstrong was also banned for life from competitive sport for his role in taking banned substances and using banned methods to gain an advantage in winning the Tour de France seven times. He has since been stripped of the results.
Bruyneel responded to the ban on his personal blog in similar manner to Armstrong, insisting that he has been unfairly singled out.
“I do not dispute that there are certain elements of my career that I wish had been different,” said Bruyneel. “Nor do I dispute that doping was a fact of life in the peloton for a considerable period of time. However, a very small minority of us has been used as scapegoats for an entire generation. There is clearly something wrong with a system that allows only six individuals to be punished as retribution for the sins of an era.”
Bruyneel also disputed the authority of US ant-doping agency and the arbitration panel to ban him, saying that he was a Belgian national residing in Britain and so not answerable to a US body. Bruyneel, who said he was considering an appeal to the international Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), was a moderately successful rider during the 1990s, when wide scale doping first came to the fore. He once finished seventh overall at the Tour de France, where he also won two stages, and was third in the Vuelta a España in 1995. His greatest success came as a sports director with US Postal, later Discovery Channel, from 1999 to 2007 and then Astana from 2008 to 2009.
His riders won 13 Grand Tours, although Armstrong was subsequently stripped of all seven of his Tour victories. Two others of his Grand Tour winning riders, Spaniards Alberto Contador and Roberto Heras have also served doping bans. Only Italian Paolo Savoldelli, who won the Giro d’Italia in 2005, has won a Grand Tour under Bruyneel’s guidance and not been subsequently caught doping.