Johan Bruyneel has poured scorn on Greg LeMond over his involvement in recent investigations into mechanical doping, labeling the American an 'asshole' and arguing that he has an unnatural obsession with tarnishing the reputation of Lance Armstrong.
In an interview with the Belgian magazine Humo, Bruyneel, who was Armstrong's former directeur sportif at the US Postal team, likened detractors of Armstrong to a "sect", asserting that "they can keep trying until the year 3000 – they're not going to find mechanical doping."
It is no secret that LeMond and his wife, Kathy, hardly see eye to eye with Armstrong, and both have been outspoken about the existence of motorised cheating, even working secretly with French police in 2014. They were two key interviewees on the CBS 60 Minutes investigation, which aired at the end of last month and featured claims that motors had been used in bikes at the Tour de France.
The spotlight turned on Armstrong when the programme makers bought an old US Postal team bike from 1999 and fitted it with a motor, which was then tested by Tyler Hamilton. Hungarian engineer Istvan Varjas also repeated his assertions that the technology has existed since 1998 and that, in an exclusive deal, he was paid $2 million not to talk about or further develop his motors for a period of 10 years.
"I don't know what it is that's up with LeMond. It's not normal to be so obsessed with Armstrong," said Bruyneel, who is currently serving a 10-year ban for his involvement in doping.
"He has realised that people are less and less outraged by Lance, because it has become clear that he was only one of many who were doping, and that's why LeMond is now looking for something new with which to tarnish his name. But he's not going to manage it. They can keep trying until the year 3000 – they're not going to find mechanical doping.
"It seems strange that LeMond travelled to the Tour de France with his wife to investigate mechanical doping with the French police – like he was on some sort of mission. They have prepared all of this. They've tried to manipulate everything to spread suspicion about Lance once again."
At the Tour de France last year, LeMond was asked by French newspaper L'Equipe if he was 'obsessed' with Armstrong and responded: "If I have this fascination on Armstrong, it was because he was abusing people, he threatened them, and I like neither cynicism nor the abuse of power."
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Bruyneel acknowledged that it was possible that mechanical doping had been used by a minority, but was heavily critical of the CBS show and scoffed at the suggestion that it is a widespread problem in the pro peloton.
"The arguments put forward were plainly ridiculous – Vargas said absolutely nothing, he was only after publicity," he said, adding that fitting a 1999 bike with modern, smaller batteries did not amount to a fair test.
"It's not something you can hide. As a team you cannot organise something like that – you have to involve many people and it would be impossible to keep it a secret."
Bruyneel went on to attack LeMond's character more generally, casting aspersions on his insistence that he never doped in his career, which included three Tour de France victories between 1986 and 1990.
"LeMond knows that nothing that might affect him will ever come to light. Anything he might have done wouldn't be provable today," he said. "He always says that he won clean while his whole generation is suspected to have been doping. It seems impossible to me. He loves hearing that he's the only American to have won the Tour. Or, better still, that he is the only winner of the Tour de France."
LeMond has always insisted he raced clean, and since retiring he has been openly skeptical of others and joined anti-doping efforts such as Change Cycling Now.
"In his era LeMond did all he could to come across well, with that baby face, always smiling, the spoken French with a pronounced American accent. But in the world of cycling everyone knows he isn't a very nice man," continued Bruyneel.
"I often compare him with Laurent Fignon. To the outside world he seemed like a bad-tempered teacher who you couldn't approach, but in the peloton we remember him as a lovely person. LeMond was the polar opposite – an asshole. He ended up on bad terms with everyone."