By Tim Maloney, European Editor
In an exclusive interview with Cyclingnews, Discovery Channel sports manager Johan Bruyneel took umbrage with recent comments by Quick Step-Innergetic Team Manager Patrick Lefevere regarding his comments on the relative freedom from doping of recent Tours De France. Lefevere, who is also the current president of the Association of Pro Teams told Belgian radio during an interview that in his opinion, the last clean winner of the Tour de France was in 1997, when Telekom rider Jan Ullrich took his first and only Tour title.
Responding from his home in Madrid, Spain, Johan Bruyneel told Cyclingnews that "With only three Tour de France champions crowned since 1997, in my opinion, Lefevere's comments were inappropriate and unfounded. His answer to the radio reporters question can only be interpreted as a direct accusation that Lance Armstrong's Tour de France victories were dirty. In Lefevere's role as president of the Association of Pro Teams I expect a higher level of professionalism and respect for current riders and former champions."
According to Cyclingnews sources, Patrick Lefevere downplayed his comments after the interview by saying he was just joking, but Bruyneel said that he failed to see the humour in these comments. "Unfortunately these comments are not a joke that I find very funny. I believe that Mr. Lefevere should think twice before saying things like this and that he should know what the repercussions of such responses are, joke or no joke. As directeur sportif of the Discovery Channel Team, I certainly take offence to these comments. Although it's not something I would usually talk to the media about, I felt that Lefevere's surprising comments were a direct attack on me and my team and thought I should respond to them."