Former US Postal manager Johan Bruyneel hits back at claims made during a recent TV investigation that the squad may have used hidden electric motors in their bikes
Johan Bruyneel has said that Greg LeMond is “obsessed” with Lance Armstrong, and has disputed claims made in a television documentary that his former US Postal squad used hidden electric motors in their bikes.
In the programme, American triple Tour de France winner LeMond and wife Kathy were interviewed, with LeMond concluding that he “won’t trust any victories of the Tour de France” until motor doping has been eradicated.
The programme’s makers attempted to contact Armstrong for his input, but he responded with a letter from his lawyers and did not appear.
For Bruyneel, LeMond’s participation in the programme and the mention of Armstrong’s name during the show is part of an on-going “obsession”.
“It was set up by Greg LeMond and his wife, Kathy,” Bruyneel told Humo. “They try to manipulate everything to suspect Lance. However, they have failed.”
Bruyneel went on to say that people are blaming Armstrong for all of cycling’s ills. “Lance’s opponents behave like a cult: everything that goes wrong in cycling is, for them, because of Armstrong”.
He also said: “I do not know what’s wrong with LeMond. It’s not normal to be so obsessed with Armstrong.”
Armstrong’s former US Postal team-mate Tyler Hamilton did appear on the programme, but denied that the team ever used hidden motors.
The 60 Minutes investigation bought an old US Postal team bike and gave it to Hungarian Stefano Varjas, an expert in the installation of motors in conventional road bikes.
Varjas successfully installed a motor in the 1999 US Postal Trek, with Hamilton shown riding it up a climb concluding that a motor could be “the difference between winning and losing for sure”.
Varjas claimed that he had made a hidden motor in 1998 and sold it to someone in the sport for $2million, but would not reveal who bought it.
Like Hamilton, Bruyneel says that US Postal never used hidden motors, and said that the technology simply didn’t exist in the late 1990s as it does today.
“60 Minutes wanted to accuse both Lance Armstrong and Team Sky on the use of mechanical doping,” said Bruyneel. “But the arguments were ridiculous: Varjas said nothing. He is just looking for publicity, I wonder how reliable he is.”
“They asked Varjas to install a motor in one of the type of bike that Lance won the Tour in 1999. Ridiculous, because they used the technology available in 2016. Batteries in 1999 would not get hidden in a bicycle frame: they are too big.”
Team Sky also come under scrutiny in the programme, as it claimed that Sky’s time trial bikes were weighed during the 2015 Tour and all came in 800g heavier than the opposition.
Varjas said in the programme that an electric motor hidden in the back wheel of a bike would weigh around 800g. Bikes are routinely checked by the UCI for technological fraud, and nothing was found.
Team Sky responded to the programme with a statement, saying: “It wasn’t mentioned in the report, but all of Team Sky’s bikes were subject to an unannounced post-stage mechanical check at the end of the stage. This is all recorded in the communique released on the day.
“There are significant variances in the weights of bikes caused by a range of different factors.”
Although rumoured for several years, evidence of a rider actually using a hidden motor in competition was only discovered in the 2016 cyclocross World Championships, when 19-year-old Belgian Femke Van den Driessche’s spare bike was found to contain a motor. She was suspended for six years.