Grand Tour specialist Jurgen Van Den Broeck and former Tour of Flanders winner Stijn Devolder have said they are surprised and shocked by the revelations published in USADA's "Reasoned Decision", that detailing the organised doping scheme of Lance Armstrong and his team manager Johan Bruyneel. Both Belgian riders raced for Armstrong's US Postal Service team during their early careers. They told Sporza they had no knowledge of what was going on behind the scenes.
"I'm shocked, because I never noticed anything," said Devolder, who was part of the American squad from 2004 to 2007, and who will join the RadioShack team in 2013. "I can hardly believe it's true. They always insisted we had to play by the rules. The team carried clean cycling high on its flag."
While at Discovery Channel in 2007, the talented Devolder experienced a breakthrough year, becoming Belgian national champion, winning the Tour of Austria and finishing third in the Tour de Suisse. "Of course, I wasn't part of the Tour de France team, but I can't remember a positive case during that time. To me, all of this seems a lot like a payoff," he added.
Van Den Broeck, who raced in Armstrong's team from 2004 to 2006, echoed Devolder's statements. "I never noticed anything forbidden," he said. "I never heard or saw anything. I was only 21 years old then, and raced another programme compared to the big names. I raced perhaps three times with Armstrong himself."
"I was treated respectfully and patiently by Dirk Demol, always with care, never any pressure. It was ideal for a young rider with ambition for the Grand Tours."
Twice a fourth-place Tour de France finisher since then, Van Den Broeck continues to praise Armstrong. "Regarding training and commitment, he's still a role model to me. The way in which he prepared for the Tour was impressive," the Belgian said, before criticising the relative immunity of those who testified against the cancer survivor.
"The fact that Armstrong is treated differently than the witnesses is not fair in my opinion. They emphasize their regrets, but they've earned a lot of money during their careers. It's a bit lame I think."
Van Den Broeck suggestedv that every rider makes a personal choice whether to use doping product, even during the times when it was more wide-spread in the peloton than it allegedly is now.
"It's nonsense to say that it was impossible to race without doping at the time. There were those who chose to dope, it was a human choice. They have to accept the consequences," he said.