By Hedwig Kröner
The undisputed 'cannibal' of cycling, Eddy Merckx, is currently in Qatar upon invitation of the Emir of the Arab state, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, for whom the Belgian arranged organisation of the race since its inception six years ago. Still, the recent scandals surrounding his fellow countrymen Johan Museeuw and Patrick Lefevere have of course reached the Emirate as well. Speaking to Spanish sports paper AS, Merckx admitted that Museeuw's confession of having used banned substances during his career had shocked him. "Bad, they're really bad," he commented on the current polemics. "I'm disappointed in Museeuw, even though he said he'd only doped at the end of his career."
However, the allegations made by Het Laatste Nieuws, according to which Quick-Step director Patrick Lefevere has been involved in doping activities for 30 years and was still doing it now, were "a completely different story" according to Merckx. "There's a journalist who spoke a lot but without proof, and accused him of very severe things. It's always the same, like in Operación Puerto. Everybody knows that Eufemiano Fuentes treated other sportsmen. But then, why don't those names come out?"
Finally, the five-time Tour de France winner spoke of Alejandro Valverde, who he considers may win the Tour de France this year. "Valverde is very good; the best of the Spanish riders at the moment," the Belgian said. "He's won important Classics and has also raced at a high level at the Vuelta. It's a pity that he crashed out of the Tour last year. He has class and experience - he's a definite candidate for the win [this year.]"