Belgian newspaper goes after Lefevere

- Quick Step-Innergetic director named in major doping story, anonymous sources quoted

By Brecht Decaluwé

Patrick Lefevere has reacted angrily to the publication today in the Belgian mass-circulation daily newspaper, Het Laatste Nieuws, of a series of articles alleging he has had '30 years in doping'.

As director of the Belgian ProTour squad Quick Step – Innergetic and president of the IPCT (International Professional Cycling Teams), Lefevere is one of professional cycling' most influential figures. He has already threatened to sue the newspaper for defamation and was on Belgian radio this morning, denying the accusations published in the three-page spread that has dominated the sports media.

The newspaper titled the series of articles: "Patrick Lefevre, 30 years of doping". The key sources for the articles are a former cyclist who raced with Lefevere in the '70s, but is now a convicted criminal serving time, and the director of the race, Driedaagse van De Panne (Three Days of De Panne). The other key sources have remained anonymous, and there are no revelations of previously unannounced positive dope tests from riders that Lefevere' managed.

The articles claim to review an alleged doping history starting from when the manager was himself a pro cyclist. One source told the newspaper, "Lefevere stopped racing because he was addicted to amphetamines himself" when describing Lefevere's cycling career in the seventies. Another claimed that Lefevere also dealt in doping products.

An Italian doctor that took care of Lefevere's riders during the years of the Mapei-team, featuring Johan Museeuw, also claimed that there was organised use of doping products. "Growth hormone came from the pharmacy, EPO was ordered online. If you wanted to ride a good season, you needed 20,000 to 30,000 euro, including products. Lefevere knew about it, saw it happening and approved it all", said one claim in the newspaper.

According to reporter, Maarten Michielssens, who is known for his investigations into alleged doping in all sports, the other sources for his articles wanted to remain anonymous because they feared possible consequences if they spoke on-the-record.

"The doctor said 'nothing' left on paper as they all feared house searches'," Michielsen explained on Belgian radio this morning. "The man was scared to death and it will be hard to convince him to witness in a possible trial."

Lefevere has strongly denied almost all accusations made by the newspaper. "I used amphetamines as a cyclist, all the rest is nonsense and bullshit," Lefevre - who wants to sue the newspaper - said to Sporza.

"These are heavy accusations and the bill that will be sent to them will be heavy as well. I’m someone who worked 25 years-long to end up where I am. I can't accept all of this as I quit racing being 25-years old because I was possibly a little more intelligent that the man they pass the word to, who's in gaol right now," Lefevere said about informant Luc Capelle on Belgian radio.

"The man is unreliable, he's in gaol for his third murder attempt. We weren't best friends but I can confirm we trained together," Lefevere said.

"These are all just foolish accusations. As an amateur I didn't know what an injection needle looked like but as a professional I tried amphetamines about seven, eight times... my doctor was the inspector at the race. Once I used deca-durabolin but my body rejected it. That I was a dealer? Complete nonsense. The few times I used doping, I had to buy it myself," Lefevere said.

Lefevere also reacted to the Italian doctor who claimed there was organised doping. "Since 1992 we work together with Doctor Van Mol, I co-founded the training centre of Mapei to keep talents like (Filippo) Pozatto, when he was a junior, out of the hands of Italian doctors. We wanted that the medical supervision was done by Mapei-doctors only," Lefevere said.

Het Laatste Nieuws offered Lefevere the chance to comment on the article and Lefevere rejected the opportunity. "The conclusion? I formally deny everything. I'm manager of a top team and I'm responsible for the future of the people that work for me. If this is in the newspaper then a trial will follow. If my image has been harmed then I'll react and there'll be high, very high claims!"

The two named witnesses in this case are Luc Capelle, and Roland Coolsaet. The first is in gaol (but claimed he sold doping products to Lefevere when they were riders in the '70s), while the latter is organiser of the "Driedaagse van De Panne".

Coolsaet didn't actually accuse Lefevere in the paper, but referred to an incident in the 1999 edition of his race, when the Mapei team was withdrawn after a raid by the police. The police were said to have found amphetamines, but Mapei was not formally charged. Apparently an Italian soigneur was alleged to have been responsible and was acting alone.

The anonymous Italian doctor quoted in the articles claims that Dr Van Mol was not that well informed on the practices within the team. "There were six doctors in the team, but after the Festina affair the doping was (allegedly) handled by external doctors like Ferrari and Cecchini, helped by some Belgian sports doctors. Van Mol and Lefevere were bunglers," the Italian doctor told the newspaper.

Van Mol reacted to these statements by saying, "I don't know anything about organised doping use, and I've learned that I shouldn't react on anonymous data.".

Despite the nature of the articles, which are seemingly based on hearsay, the publication has created a major controversy in the cycling-mad country, especially at a time when there is little racing to report on. At the time of writing, Lefevere had not commenced proceedings against the newspaper.

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