Johan Bruyneel says there’s “nothing new” to the latest round of doping allegations leveled at Lance Armstrong, who raced his final international cycling event with Sunday’s conclusion at the Tour Down Under.
The Belgian sport director shrugged off allegations published in the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, saying they are “old stories.”
“In journalism, some like to create news out of old stories, things that have been written and rewritten and written again,” Bruyneel said in an interview with the Spanish daily MARCA. “It’s more of the same and we don’t give it much importance.”
Bruyneel called Armstrong’s final international race “something special” and said it was “moving” to see his longtime protégé finally give up international competition. Armstrong is expected to compete on the U.S. circuit, most likely at the Tour of California in May.
Bruyneel said he and Armstrong are “immune” to doping allegations that he says are untrue.
“These accusations of doping against Lance don’t affect us anymore. Even though people might not believe it, you can live like that,” he said. “Since 1999, it’s been the same story, and this is nothing more than an addition to a long list. These accusations don’t affect us, but it does annoy us because they’re ruining a good moment. We’re enjoying the cycling ambiance and the rest we just try to forget about it.”
The Belgian went on to say Armstrong’s comeback was worth it despite the troubles they had during the 2010 Tour de France, when Armstrong crashed out of contention for the final podium.
“When he came back in 2009 and reached third on the Tour podium, that was a tremendous success,” he said. “In 2010, we were on the way back to the podium, but in the end it didn’t work out that way … they can’t take away what we’ve already enjoyed.”
On Contador, Bruyneel said he believes the Spanish rider is telling the truth.
“I am sure that he’s innocent,” he continued. “This has already happened to other riders, even though his situation is complicated because WADA rules state that you’re responsible for what goes into your body. It would be terribly unfair to sanction him, but from what I’ve heard, he won’t stop until he’s cleared.”
For RadioShack, Bruyneel said they will be racing this year’s Tour without a major team leader, but said they will bring a competitive team to French tour.
“We’ll probably be missing a big leader for the Tour, but we’ll have a good group of guys. The majority of teams are on the same level,” he said. “Nevertheless, the season will be marked by the presence or absence of Alberto Contador. If he’s at the Tour, it will be very different than if he’s not.”