RadioShack-Nissan manager Johan Bruyneel announced Friday that he would sit out the Tour de France. Bruyneel said U.S. Anti-Doping Agency allegations surrounding himself, Lance Armstrong and four others made his involvement with the Tour team “an unwelcome distraction.”
“I’m sad to say that I’ve decided that for the first time in many years I will not be attending this year’s Tour de France. The story of the Tour should be the achievements of its riders and the thrill of our great sport,” read a statement on Bruyneel’s website. “I dearly wish to be there but my attendance in light of the recent USADA allegations against me would be an unwelcome distraction to my team, and to all those participating in and supporting the Tour.”
Bruyneel has not run the day-to-day operations of his teams for some years; sports directors led by Dirk Demol and Alain Gallopin have directed the squad from behind the wheel in the team car. Bruyneel has, however, frequently dropped in on major races and has traditionally been on-site for the duration of the Tour.
He wrote in the statement that his decision to sit out the Tour came after he “consulted” with team sponsors and Leopard management. It is unknown whether team owner Flavio Becca or top sponsors asked that Bruyneel stay away from the race.
“It is unfortunate that these latest, unfounded accusations have resulted in my withdrawal from the Tour, although I hope to prove my innocence and resolve this matter soon and once and for all,” wrote Bruyneel.
“As the General Manager of Leopard, I have a lot of confidence in the quality and experience of the team directors who will direct our team at the Tour de France and I’m very hopeful to see top performances of our riders during the first three weeks of July. I wish the directors, riders and support staff good luck in what should be a thrilling race.
“Finally, I wish to thank all the people who have been sending me their kind messages of support.”
USADA named Bruyneel and Armstrong, as well as Dr. Michele Ferrari and three others in a charging letter dated June 12 and leaked to The Washington Post on June 13. In the 15-page letter, USADA alleged that Bruyneel and Armstrong engaged in a doping conspiracy that lasted more than a decade, including the Texan’s comeback in 2009 and 2010.