FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Johan Bruyneel, a former manager on Lance Armstrong’s teams, attacked Greg LeMond over claims of motorized cheating in the peloton.
In a “60 Minutes” show last week, Hungarian engineer Istvan “Stefano” Varjas said hidden motors have existed since 1998, when he first developed a version suitable enough to go unnoticed. LeMond, who spoke about motors, said that he secretly helped the French police investigate.
“We were tipped off in advance [about the show], and they were bound after a letter from Armstrong’s lawyers,” Bruyneel told Belgian magazine Humo.
“60 Minutes” pointed the finger at Armstrong, who won the Tour de France from 1999 to 2005 — titles that were later stripped for doping. The show bought a US Postal Service bike dating back to 1999 and had Varjas install a motor to prove it was possible.
“Initially, the program would have been much more aggressive,” Bruyneel said. “But to put force in their initial assertions, they asked Varjas to install a motor in a bike like the one that Lance won the Tour on in 1999. It’s ridiculous, because they used technology from 2016. With the batteries in 1999, you could not have them hidden in a bicycle frame. They were too big. I have people who know something about this.
“I do not know what’s wrong with LeMond. It is not normal when you’re so obsessed with Armstrong.”
Armstrong’s former teammate Tyler Hamilton, who admitted to doping and explained the details of the team’s doping system in a book, told “60 Minutes” he was unaware of hidden motors during their time racing. The show had him ride the motorized Trek that Varjas built.
Hamilton said, “I could see how teams are doing it.” He added that the small power boost would be a “game changer.”
Last year, Armstrong denied ever using a motorized bike during his carer. “In 1999, no one even knew you could put motor [in a bike],” he said.
LeMond, who won the Tour in 1986, 1989, and 1990, did not point the finger at Armstrong in the show. “60 Minutes” said he first found out about them in 2014, when LeMond and his wife Kathy met Varjas in Paris.
Varjas, however, said that hidden motors had existed since 1998 and that he made an exclusive deal with a professional cyclist. He was paid $2 million at the time through an intermediary, and he had to keep quiet for 10 years and not sell the technology to anyone else.
“LeMond has realized that people are becoming less and less angry with Lance because it has become clear that he was only one of the many who used doping substances and that is why LeMond is now looking for something new to stain his first name,” Bruyneel added. “But you will not find it. They may try until the year 3000, but they will not find motorized doping.
“Lance’s opponents behave like a cult. For them, everything that goes wrong in cycling is because of Armstrong.”
Varjas told Humo that authorities could discover who paid the $2 million if they “follow the money trail” from the transaction in 1998.
The UCI has caught one motorized cheater so far. Last year at the cyclocross world championships, a hidden motor was discovered in a bike belonging to 19-year-old Belgian Femke Van den Driessche. She is serving a six-year ban.
The “60 Minutes” show provided no direct link, but it quoted Jean Pierre Verdy, a former French Anti-Doping Agency testing director, who claimed 12 riders used motorized bikes in the 2015 Tour de France.