As Bradley Wiggins made his way around the Olympic velodrome in London on Sunday, he was pushing cycling forward in terms of raising the bar of the historic UCI Hour Record, but figures of the sport’s past were looming large.
Johan Bruyneel, the banned director who guided Lance Armstrong to all seven of his Tour de France victories from 1999 to 2005, was enjoying the action trackside. Laughing and sipping wine with him was Pat McQuaid, the ex-president of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) whose leadership was found by the CIRC report to be weak and to contain certain conflicts of interest.
Bruyneel was handed a 10-year ban from sport last year by the American Arbitration Association, which found he was "at the apex of a conspiracy to commit widespread doping on the USPS and Discovery Channel teams spanning many years and many riders".
That he was able to enjoy VIP privileges at a UCI-associated event may not sit comfortably but there was nothing to stop him being there. His ban only applies to involvement in direct the competitive side of sport and he is free to attend sporting events as a spectator. Speaking to Cyclingnews, Bruyneel argued that he bought his own ticket and had every right to attend.
"I bought the tickets myself," he said. "It was £200 a ticket and I paid £1000 to go with my four friends who I invited. So I don't really see what's wrong with that. As far as I know I can attend a sporting event. If I buy a ticket for a Chelsea game I'm going to go to the game. It's as simple as that.
"I wanted to go to be with my friends, two of them are huge bike fans and had never gone to that kind of event. They had a great time and I had a great time being with them.
"I've seen these reactions of 'who let him in? How did he get there?' It's very simple, I bought the tickets and that was it."
The UCI has nothing to do with who was allowed into the venue to watch the event, whether as a ticket holder or a special guest. Their remit covers making sure the event runs in line with sporting, broadcast and marketing regulations, rather than controlling who comes in through the door.
When contacted by Cyclingnews, the UCI declined to comment on the issue or whether it was appropriate that Bruyneel and McQuaid were trackside at the event.
While McQuaid has enjoyed VIP hospitality at races such as the Tour of Turkey since his departure from the UCI, Bruyneel claims this is the first time he has been to a cycling event since his ban.
"It's not like I'm jumping up and down to watch cycling events," he told Cyclingnews. "If it wasn't for my friends I probably wouldn't have gone. It's the first cycling event I've gone to since I left cycling. It's not something I'm going to do on a regular basis but if the circumstances are there, and I can go, then I'll do it."
Asked whether he had any second thoughts, or if it might have been wiser to purchase standard tickets, Bruyneel insisted he had no regrets. He reiterated his rights as a consumer and added that it gave him the opportunity to catch up with friends he hasn't seen for some time, such as Miguel Indurain.
"If some people are upset about that then they have the right to be upset, but it's not going to stop me attending something if I want to and am allowed to," he argued.
Thank you for reading 5 articles in the past 30 days*
Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read any 5 articles for free in each 30-day period, this automatically resets
After your trial you will be billed £4.99 $7.99 €5.99 per month, cancel anytime. Or sign up for one year for just £49 $79 €59
Join now for unlimited access
Try your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1