Patrick Lefevere has given his most revealing interview yet over doping allegations levelled at him, telling Het Nieuwsblad that he has made certain decisions but that systematic doping has never been part of his regime.
Speaking to Jan-Pieter de Vlieger from Het Nieuwsblad, Lefevere said, “I've made decisions. I was in the car with doctor Yvan Vanmol the other day saying, 'Thank god we made decisions,' otherwise we would also be hanging from a tree by now.”
Lefereve has been in charge of Belgium’s biggest squad since the early 2000s and before that he was a senior director sportif for Mapei. Under his guidance a number of riders including Richard Virenque, Johan Museeuw and Michele Bartoli have all found success, with Tom Boonen being the latest star of Lefevere’s newest squad Omega Pharma QuickStep.
He has been accused of doping riders in the past but won a case against Het Laatste Nieuws in 2003 after the paper ran an article that included the title “Lefevere, 30 Years Of Dope”
“There's never been organised doping use in my team,” he told Het Nieuwsblad.
In recent months, Lefevere has been criticised for his stance on the Lance Armstrong affair after a rider on his 2012 team, Levi Leipheimer, testified against Armstrong and confessed to his own doping past. USADA handed Leipheimer a reduced suspension despite it not being his first doping violation and Lefevere subsequently fired the rival. It was a move at odds with Lefevere’s past having welcome Virenque into his team the previous decade.
“Last week a Belgian book titled 'Who still believes those cyclists' came out and said there was and now you will start talking about omertà. But the thing is: if I fire Leipheimer, I am omertà in the US. And if I don't fire him, I'm omertà in Europa.”
Lefevere also discussed rumours linking his riders to Dr. Michele Ferrari and Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes. On the subject, he said: “These are the choices you make. When a rider came up to me and asked: can I go to Michele Ferrari? I would answer, 'Yes, next year. When you're not riding for me anymore.”
The Belgian publication then posed an interesting question to Lefevere stating that Vanmol had said in the past that “I've done things, but I've stopped a lot more things." Does that summarize team Lefevere in the nineties?
The team manager responded: “Yes; But no-one would believe me. When I was a rider myself I went to doctor Eric Rijckaert. He told me: which races do you want to be good at. I'll prepare you for them medically.' But then Rijckaert didn't want to tell me what this preparation was about. So I didn't do it. He explained to me: ‘If I tell riders what I do, they'll do it twice every week. So he was protecting people against themselves, but that's not how that's perceived today. Same for Geert Leinders: it's pathetic how people talk about him today.”