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SITTARD, Netherlands (VN) — Belgian Johan Bruyneel’s long fight with anti-doping authorities inched closer to an ending on Tuesday when he was handed a 10-year-ban from the sport by the American Arbitration Association.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency investigated the Belgian for his ties to what it called the United States Postal Service team’s doping “conspiracy” that helped Lance Armstrong win seven straight Tours de France. Those results were later stripped.
A three-person panel found that “the evidence establishes conclusively that Mr. Bruyneel was at the apex of a conspiracy to commit widespread doping on the USPS and Discovery Channel teams spanning many years and many riders. Similarly, Dr. [Pedro] Celaya and Mr. [Jose ‘Pepe’] Martí were part of, or at least allowed themselves to be used as instruments of, that conspiracy.”
The Panel imposed a 10-year ban for Bruyneel and eight-year bans for Celaya and Martí. The panel found that Bruyneel trafficked performance-enhancing drugs and “was engaged in the allocation of team-related resources … causing a variety of prohibited doping substances and methods to be used expressly for the purpose of gaining an unfair advantage for the teams and cyclists he managed in cycling events.” Bruyneel also “profited considerably from the successes of the teams and riders he managed during the relevant period,” according to a release from USADA. The full report from the AAA was released Tuesday.
Bruyneel responded on his personal website, taking aim at USADA’s jurisdiction over him but also admitting there were “elements” of his career he wished were different.
“I do not dispute that there are certain elements of my career that I wish had been different. Nor do I dispute that doping was a fact of life in the peloton for a considerable period of time. However, a very small minority of us has been used as scapegoats for an entire generation,” he wrote. “There is clearly something wrong with a system that allows only six individuals to be punished as retribution for the sins of an era.”
All told, USADA has now had a hand in stern punishments of six men from the USPS cycling dynasty and its later iterations, though several others received six-month bans. Armstrong was banned for life after his decision to not contest charges against him in 2012, while Italian Dr. Michele Ferrari and Spaniard Dr. Luis Garcia del Moral each received lifetime suspensions in addition to the news today on Bruyneel and the others.
According to the report, Bruyneel encouraged athletes to enhance their performance through the use of EPO, blood transfusions, testosterone, and cortisone. Bruyneel, Armstrong’s longtime director on multiple teams (U.S. Postal, Discovery Channel, Astana, and RadioShack), attacked the USADA as self-serving.
“Did the US Postal team really operate ‘the most sophisticated, professional and successful doping program that sport has ever seen?’ This headline-grabber has helped create a staggering industry of books and movies, but reveals only USADA’s talent for self-aggrandizement,” he wrote. “The reality is very different. In due course, I will take the time to give a full account of events within my knowledge. In the meantime I would ask you to treat USADA’s partial and self-serving narrative of events with considerable circumspection.”
Bruyneel contests that the American anti-doping body has no authority over him, though it’s become somewhat common for national anti-doping agencies to suspend athletes outside its borders.
“I am a Belgian national and I reside in the United Kingdom. I have never been a member of USA Cycling, nor any other national governing body of sport based in the United States. I have never signed any document or agreement granting USADA or the AAA any authority over my livelihood or me,” he wrote. “None of the anti-doping rule violations alleged by USADA are said to have occurred on US soil. It simply cannot be correct or acceptable that USADA — a US organization — is freely able to determine the livelihood of any individual that it chooses to prosecute, without boundary and without oversight.”
The panel noted that, in accordance with the Code and the International Cycling Union Anti-Doping Rules, USADA had authority to bring these cases because USADA discovered the violations.
The cases of Bruyneel, Celaya, and Martí were heard by a panel of arbitrators in London last December at a four-day hearing. The three men were represented by seven lawyers collectively, and testimony was received by 17 witnesses in total, who were each subjected to cross examinations. Bruyneel and Martí both refused to testify but Dr. Celaya did, although the body found he was not a “credible” witness. Bruyneel is weighing his options at this point.
“I am currently debating what my next step should be. I could still challenge the decision of the AAA in the Court of Arbitration for Sport, although that would again require me to put my faith in arbitration,” he wrote. “I will shortly decide whether to keep up the fight or carry on and try to expose the hypocrisy of what USADA has put me and others through.”
As of now, Bruyneel’s sanction will end June 11, 2022; Celaya and Martí’s sanctions will end on June 11, 2020.