A judge in Brugge, Belgium, has said that he will announce his verdict in Patrick Lefevere's lawsuit against Belgian politician Jean-Marie Dedecker on December 17. The politician had claimed on television that three of the country's top cyclists underwent doping cures in Italy in February 2006, and Lefevere sued for damages. No riders' names were mentioned, but Lefevere felt the comments were directed at him since virtually all the Belgian top elite riders race for Quick.Step.
Pleadings in the matter were made this week by Esperanza bvba (Lefevere's management company), the IPCT (Association of ProTour Teams), and Celio Sport I& Image (Tom Boonen's management). Dedecker had filed a counter suit claiming the suit was reckless and provocative. Both sides agreed to limit the matter to the statements actually made on television.
The cycling groups argued that Dedecker's remarks went beyond what is allowed by freedom of speech. They were unable to sue for criminal defamation, because the politician is protected against such prosecution because of his function.
Dedecker claimed that the applicants "want to damage me and use me as an example of how they will shut the mouth of everyone who speaks out against doping," according to the Belga press agency. "I plead for the freedom to express opinions." He added that he questioned the motives of the companies suing him, since "at least 17 riders who have worked with them have admitted doping."