Lance Armstrong’s former team manager Johan Bruyneel has opened up about how he sought psychological help in the aftermath of the 2012 USADA report that placed the Belgian at the centre of the US Postal Service’s doping operation.
“It was a major lesson in life. I’m now a different person. 20 years older and 20 years wiser. Sometimes, I have the feeling that I’d really hit rock bottom and that I’d never recover. I was given medical help, both mental and physical, throughout that time. Sometimes, I’d meet someone who’d say ‘it’s amazing you’re still standing’,” Bruyneel told Cycling Opinions about the period of his life that would culminate in a lifetime ban from cycling in 2018.
“I’m the perfect example of a person who was at one time on top of the world and who suddenly fell from grace at a breathtaking speed. I fell from a great height.
“And then you come to the conclusion that you’re all alone in the world. Ever since that report was published, a great deal has happened. It cost me my marriage. On the other hand, I’ve also learned that however bad you think things are, there is always another level, whether it be up or down.”
In June 2012 Bruyneel was accused by USADA of being part of the doping operation that helped Lance Armstrong to his now-stripped seven Tour de France titles. While waiting for his hearing and shortly after the documents from the USADA case were released to the public, Bruyneel left his position as managing director of RadioShack-Nissan.
When asked if he regrets his actions, Bruyneel says he is more regretful of the way he and his team behaved, rather than the actual doping, saying using performance-enhancing drugs was “inevitable” at that time and might still be today.
“Do I regret the doping? That’s a very difficult question,” Bruyneel says, taking a long pause to consider his answer. “In fact, my biggest regret is how we were so arrogant and the way we behaved. I think that doping was inevitable and quite possibly still is. It’s a difficult question. It’s a pity that we found ourselves in an era where what we said is ‘okay, if that’s how it is, we’ll do it’. If we want to survive, then that’s what had to be done. There was no choice.”
In the reflective interview, Bruyneel says there are things he’d rather not have gone through, but that he is now proud of who he is today.
“When I look back at it all, there is of course so much that I would have preferred not to have done or gone through. But now, when I look at myself and see who I am and where I am, how I look at life, well…I’m proud of myself.”
Despite his lifetime ban from cycling, Bruyneel recently launched a new sports management venture, called ‘7evenPlusTwo’, which is a reference to the nine Tour de France victories he was involved in, Armstrong’s seven wins that were stripped and Alberto Contador’s two victories in 2007 and 2009.