By Brecht Decaluwé in Kortrijk
Patrick Lefevere gave a press conference at a hotel in Kortrijk, Belgium on Friday afternoon to respond to the accusations from the newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws. At the conference, Lefevere read a statement in which he often referred to 'dirt injections', describing the methods of the Belgian newspaper and its journalist Maarten Michielssens.
"The way I have been tackled is inconceivable. A newspaper – worthy of that name – would never use such methods," Lefevere said. One by one, the Quick Step manager refuted the accusations that have been made, emphasizing the damage that they have caused. "Luc Cappelle – I won't bother to describe this man - has been presented wrongly as a close friend. His wife already said that he made those statements on demand of Dedecker [the Belgian Senator], and other media who knew about his statements weighed it and found it all wanting."
"The newspaper used one known fact, which is true but 30 years-old [referring to his admitted use of drugs - ed.], and they attach papers full of nonsense to it without delivering any proof," Lefevere said. Referring to the allegations that he had become addicted to drugs, and had to enter a rehab programme to kick the habit, the 52 year-old said, "I put up a premium of 50,000 euro if someone could show me that centre. One week has passed since then and nobody reacted."
Lefevere showed papers that he claimed were proof that his riders didn't have extremely high hematocrit levels during recent editions of Gent-Wevelgem. "With approval from team doctor Van Mol, I received the results from the UCI tests after those races. I demand the UCI, WADA, … to make everything public." He also blamed the newspaper for not offering him a reasonable chance to reply. "They called me the evening before the publication while they knew I was in a meeting in Switzerland," Lefevere said.
The manager claimed his honour and good name were harmed as a result of the coverage of the story in the international media, and has asked his lawyer to protect his rights and prepare a claim. "We're prosecuting the publisher, the newspaper and the journalist as all rules of professional journalism have been violated," Lefevere said.
Lefevere is also suing senator Dedecker, saying, "the man deserves no more attention, he'll get that at court."
As for the reported compensation claim of 50 million euros, Lefevere's lawyer Chris Declerck made clear that this is all provisional as the damage is still being caused. "The provisional amount of 50 million was based on the negotiations that are ongoing for the contracts starting in 2009," Declerck explained. He concluded by asking if the Journalist's board can let this all happen, "Is a journalist paid for the amount of papers he sells or does he get fired for such frivolous journalism?"
The author of the articles, Maarten Michielssens, was present at the conference, and expressed his confidence in the story, his sources and his newspaper. "I stand firm in my shoes," he told Sporza, "My witnesses are anonymous to protect their identity. This is the only way that's possible, with the omerta. [concerning doping in the peloton -ed.]"
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