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Court rules in favour of Quick Step manager over journalists' allegations of doping programme
Quick Step's Patrick Lefevere has been awarded damages of 500,000 euros after a court in Brussels ruled this week that allegations made by three Belgian journalists of a long-term doping programme within the team manager's squads were based upon unreliable sources.
The court has ordered the three journalists, whose report entitled "Patrick Lefevere, 30 years of dope" was published in Belgian daily Het Laatste Nieuws in January 2007, to pay Lefevere the sum, plus court costs. The three were also ordered by the court to pay Quick Step team doctor Yvan Van Mol 100,000 euros and a symbolic 1 euro fine to the ProTour team's management company, Esperanza.
"The unfounded manner of the story goes against all elementary rules of journalism," said the court, according to Het Nieuwsblad. "The honour and good name of Lefevere, Van Mol and the racers have been offended. By bringing this article to the front page news they [Het Laatste Nieuws] have given even more publicity to an already unlawful publication."
Het Laatste Nieuws's parent company NV Persgroep Publishing had issued a retraction two weeks after the original story was published and escaped penalty. It leaves the two authors of the report and their editor to bear responsibility for the damages awarded by the court.
The report had accused Lefevere of overseeing a programme of acquisition and application of drugs within his teams he has managed throughout his career. Lefevere had vigorously disputed the allegations contained within the article and initially asked for damages of 20.5 million euros after his team lost a new contract as a result of the report.
Although disappointed that the newspaper had escaped sanction, Lefevere told Cyclingnews on Saturday that he was pleased with the outcome of the case.
"Unfortunately, it is only the journalists that have to pay and not the newspaper. Of course, they may appeal, but the fact that I won that is the most important thing and I feel that justice has been done," he said.
"The money is important, but many people read and believed the report and I cannot get back that damage that was done to me personally and my reputation."
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