Like Lance Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel vehemently denied all the accusations made against him by Floyd Landis.
Speaking before the start of stage five of the Amgen Tour of California, Bruyneel claimed that Landis has been trying to blackmail him for four years.
Johan Bruyneel: I adamantly deny these allegations. It is not at all a surprise for us. We expected it for a long time. Floyd started contacting us immediately, four years ago, as soon as he tested positive at the Tour. I was threatened and blackmailed or whatever you want to call it. I was asked for specific things from me and from the team to help him. You can call that money, asking for a job when he was able to race again. Obviously we did not respond to that request.
From there on it has been a constant roller coaster for him. I think that Floyd has changed his story too many times. He said he has been saying something for four years, I’ve seen him on TV. I haven’t seen him in court but he said it in court and in all the meetings, wrote a book and set up funds to raise a lot of money because obviously he found out that the legal services are very expensive.
Now all of a sudden there are these changes. He is pointing at me, pointing at Lance, pointing a lot of other people, basically people who are still there. He goes to a guy like Andy Rihs or Jim Ochowicz. For me it is clear that we have to deal with someone who is bitter. I’ve always known Floyd as an angry person, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad. He used his anger sometimes for the race to motivate himself. He is someone who is basically angry with the world and now it sounds like he wants to drag down people who are still there, and enjoying it.
There is not so much else I can say about it. For me, it is just another fact in a long line of things that happened in the past and coming from Floyd it is not surprise. I have been expecting this for a long time already.
Is the timing coincidental?
You can see that you have to ask what his drive is but I still don’t know. At a certain moment I know that Floyd and his team, with his new personal sponsor had been trying to get into this race so he has not only been threatening us but also the organization, Andrew Messick and the sponsor of the race, to get in. Who knows, he came up with this yesterday, I think he finally found somebody who wanted to write his story. Some people standing here have had the story for a few weeks but didn’t give it any credibility and now all of a sudden everyone has to report it because someone gave it some credibility and found it good enough to write.
Maybe before the end of this race he will show up, I am totally expecting that. So no, it is definitely an unpleasant fact and a distraction for this race and for us but nothing that I am going to lose sleep over.
How do you as a team manager focus the riders on the Amgen Tour of California?
It came late out night yesterday but it is not like it all of a sudden fell out of the sky. We knew this since Sacramento and a little bit earlier. I was aware of it and we are going to try to not let it be a distraction. I’m going to go back in the bus and talk about how we are going to win the Tour of California.
What was he asking for when he was sending you emails?
Basically two things, since his positive test in the Tour de France he has been asking us for money, a lot of money to help pay for his legal advise. From the moment that his suspension was finished, on two occasions he asked for a position on the team, which of course I also did not respond to.
It’s been, for example, pressure. You don’t go and ask for a bunch of money from someone if you don’t have second thoughts. You don’t just show up and say, ‘hey, can you help me out because I have no money.’ He said this years ago and this is nothing new.
Would you call this extortion?
I would call this a sad story. Knowing the personality and the history, having him in the team, we took Floyd onto our team when he was in bad financial shape after the Mercury fiasco and had no money. I remember that he told me, lucky you got me on the team because I was almost forced to sell my house to pay my bills. I think from then on it has been up and down for Floyd.
I would advise Floyd, I can’t help him, but I would advise him to look for help. When I’m talking about professional help, I’m not talking about lawyers. I’m talking about other help.
Did you go the police because it is illegal?
I am not the only one who received that email. What can you do? There is not a lot we can do other than say what we think, how we feel about it and basically saying that I feel sad for Floyd. He has gone through a lot from a low point to a high point to a low point and lost everything he had.
How will the team react if he continues to send out these allegations?
History shows and our experience shows that this is the time we are going to talk about it and I hope we can address as much as we can. But, after I walk back into this bus I am done with it. We are here for the Tour of California. This is a very important race for us. Obviously Floyd chose the moment at first to put pressure on the organization to have his team in the race and didn’t get it but now he finally saw all the doors were closed. He came out with it when the Tour of California is at a high point and tomorrow is the biggest stage so, his timing is obviously not coincidence.
Explain how other riders and teams across the sport have been implicated, but that your one organization, in front of all the other organizations, have never done anything wrong and yet had so much success?
I can only speak for myself and for the team. I can’t speak for what happened in other teams. There has been stupid things in the past with other teams and especially other riders and other riders on my team that left the team.
How did you feel when you read that part of the email that you had taught the riders how to use drugs?
When I saw that I said, ‘wow, I must have successful qualifications' but no not at all. I deny completely. I saw that part
recently. The specific accusations about me, personally, I only knew of a few weeks ago.