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The new Astana team is "not a copy of Discovery Channel," said the new General Manager of the squad,...
The new Astana team is "not a copy of Discovery Channel," said the new General Manager of the squad, Johan Bruyneel. "The general situation of the sport does not allow this." Moreover, the Belgian is not afraid of ghosts from the Kazakh team's past. "I have certain written guarantees. I will do it my way. If I don't succeed, then I will make the decision to leave. I don't think it will come to that. This must be a team with the 'Johan Bruyneel' philosophy."
In an interview with the Belgian newspaper Sportwereld, Bruyneel said that although he had made his decision to retire after announcing the end of the Discovery Channel team, "after three weeks I had had enough." He is not the kind of person "to just sit at home," he explained. "I have already retired twice. The first time was in August 1998, as a pro rider. Three weeks later, Lance Armstrong called me. Now two weeks later I got a phone call from Ekimov about Astana."
Signing Ivan Basso to a contract with Discovery Channel "was a mistake," admitted Johan Bruyneel. At the time, the Italian had been cleared by the Italian Olympic Committee even though he later admitted his work with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, the central figure of the Operación Puerto doping scandal. Bruyneel recruited the controversial rider under the encouragement of then-Discovery Channel President Billy Campbell, who was a supporter of Basso's. Campbell was fired by Discovery Channel days before the company announced in February that it was ending its sponsorship.
How did the mistake happen? "I didn't know Basso," Bruyneel said. "That can happen with new people. As I also do not know Andreas Klöden." Basso resigned from the team on May 1, 2007, and was given a suspension which runs through October 2008.
The Belgian, who has eight Tour de France victories on his palmarès as directeur sportif, is confident that he won't be equally fooled by Andreas Klöden, despite rumours that the German's T-Mobile Team may have been involved in blood-doping during the 2006 Tour de France. "Klöden told me that he had nothing to do with it. As far as I know he has never been involved in a doping affair," stated Bruyneel, who was required by the UCI to take over all existing Astana contracts when he took over the team. "We are heavily armed against possible matters from the past. If it appears that Klöden was involved in something, then we will react appropriately."