Johan Bruyneel has claimed that Lance Armstrong would have been the strongest rider of his generation with or without doping and he once again disputed USADA’s assertion that his US Postal team had run the most “sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program” in the history of sport.
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France victories in 2012, and both Bruyneel and Armstrong were banned for life for their parts in the US Postal doping conspiracy.
“Lance’s character was assassinated. This collective demonisation is easy to do, but impossible to undo. It’s hard to take, especially as there was a lot of hypocrisy,” Bruyneel told Eurosport. “With or without doping, in all the history of cycling, every big champion was always the best of his generation. And Lance wasn’t an exception to that rule. Tell me what changed in cycling after Lance? Nothing.”
Bruyneel denied that Armstrong had availed of a more advanced doping programme than his rivals during his sequence of success at the Tour. Only two of Armstrong’s Tours – 2003 and 2005 – were won by margins of under 6 minutes.
“The problem is that USADA claimed this was the biggest doping system in the history of sport. Saying that is total crap! We've seen much worse, in Russia or East Germany,” Bruyneel said.
“Lance didn’t do more than the others. I would even go so far as to say that he did less, especially compared to the riders who were caught in Operacion Puerto with Dr. Fuentes – riders like Mayo, Basso, Ullrich, Hamilton, who were Armstrong’s chief rivals.”
Bruyneel was initially handed a ten-year ban by USADA in 2014 but WADA successfully appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport for his sanction to be increased to a lifetime ban. The Belgian said that he would be interested in returning to the sport but acknowledged that his ban meant it was impossible. He complained that he and Armstrong had been deemed personae non gratae in professional cycling.
“It’s not so much a return that would interest us; it's simply being accepted. They have sullied us to the point where we have become, everywhere, personae non gratae,” said Bruyneel. “There are a lot of people with whom I've always had a good relationship, but I know that if I go on a race, they won't come and take a picture with me.”
He also claimed that that Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme and UCI president David Lappartient were “the two big obstacles” to his and Armstrong’s “rehabilitation.”
“Both of them say they don't want to hear the name Armstrong,” he said. “It's a bit hypocritical all the same: on the other hand, they don't hesitate to take selfies with others... But it's all political.”
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