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Bruyneel banned for life by CAS, says 'we were children of our era'

Lance Armstrong's former team manager Johan Bruyneel was given a lifetime ban from the sport for his involvement in a doping conspiracy during the years of the American's seven now-stripped Tour de France victories.

Bruyneel penned an open letter, acknowledging that "a lot of mistakes have been made" and says there are things he wishes he could have done differently and there are "certain actions I now deeply regret".

In 2012, the US Anti-Doping Agency concluded an investigation into doping allegations against Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team by giving Armstrong a lifetime ban. Bruyneel was handed a 10-year suspension after a 2014 arbitration.

The inquiry was sparked by admissions from Floyd Landis that in turn started a US federal investigation that ended without any indictments. Landis went on to file the False Claims Act suit from which he won approximately $750,000. Armstrong settled with the government for $5 million in April, 2018.

The Belgian was the manager at the RadioShack-Nissan squad at the time of the USADA decision, and the team ended its association with him, saying he could not direct the team "in an efficient and comfortable way" while stating that the case did "not concern the activities of Mr Bruyneel while managing the Radioshack Nissan Trek Team."

Bruyneel was accused of "being at the apex of a conspiracy to commit widespread doping on the USPS and Discovery Channel teams spanning many years and many riders" by USADA, who said that Bruyneel collaborated with banned trainer Michele Ferrari to hone and implement blood doping and performance-enhancing drug regimens to ensure the team's success in the Tour de France and other races, and warned riders of impending doping controls.

Earlier this year he admitted that they were "arrogant", but denied bullying and intimidating riders, the media and other team directors.

"We've made a lot of enemies, that's a fact. I'm sorry and I can't undo that anymore. We were in a daze, the focus was solely on results. I'm now embarrassed about how I behaved."

Bruyneel did not mention whether he would pay the $1.2 million fine imposed by the US government.

In his letter on Wednesday, Bruyneel accepted that there is "effectively nothing I can do against this sanction - and at 54 years of age, a 10-year ban or a lifetime ban is practically the same - I would still like to take the opportunity to highlight a few key elements in this long process," he wrote.

Full text of the letter:

"This afternoon, I received an email from the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in Lausanne, announcing that the 10-year ban, imposed by the United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) in 2012, has been increased and is now a lifetime ban. The World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) had appealed against the original 10-year ban and instead demanded I be banned for life. Their request has been granted by CAS and I am now banned for life from cycling.

"Although there's effectively nothing I can do against this sanction and at 54 years of age, a 10-year ban or a lifetime ban is practically the same I would still like to take the opportunity to highlight a few key elements in this long process.

"First and foremost, I want to stress that I acknowledge and fully accept that a lot of mistakes have been made in the past. There are a lot of things I wish I could have done differently, and there are certain actions I now deeply regret. The period I lived through, both as a cyclist and as a team director, was very different than it is today.

"Without going into details in this letter, I would simply like to observe that we were all children of our era, facing the pitfalls and temptations that were part of the culture at the time. We didn't always make the best choices.

"In terms of the whole sports-legal process, however, and trying to keep this letter as brief as possible, there are elements which I feel the need to highlight, as even today, after all these years, I find them incredibly frustrating.

"USADA: I have said from the beginning that this American agency had no jurisdiction over me. I am a Belgian citizen, living in Spain, and I have never had any contractual agreement, let alone an arbitration agreement, with USADA. Yet this agency disregarded all normal judicial limitations to crucify and demonize me, making me a key protagonist in their Hollywood version of events.

"In spite of the CAS decision, I firmly maintain my position that USADA does not have - and never had any legal authority over me. Thus, USADA never had the power to open a case against me, and less still any power to issue me with a ban of any duration.

"In terms of the whole CAS appeal process, my principal defense rights, namely:

1. That there has never been any arbitration agreement between me and USADA
2. The respect of the statute of limitations
3. The right to equal treatment
4. The proportionality of the sanction have all been completely disregarded.

"This whole process has been a difficult, very painful and complicated learning process for myself, but after too long a time, it is now time for me to move on. I can finally close this chapter and focus on the positive things in my future. I am still in good health, I have two beautiful, healthy children, a lot of very good friends as well as plenty of energy and ideas for the years to come.

"After everything that happened, and I repeat, many of things I regret, I still love cycling with the same passion and intensity I had when I fell in love with it as a 14-year-old boy. In spite of the CAS decision, it is still my goal and my wish to contribute, to help grow my sport and make it better in the years ahead."


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Managing Editor

Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Managing Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. As former elite-level road racer who dabbled in cyclo-cross and track, Laura has a passion for all three disciplines. When not working she likes to go camping and explore lesser traveled roads, paths and gravel tracks. Laura's beat is anti-doping, UCI governance and data analysis.