LUXEMBOURG (AP) — The RadioShack-Nissan team severed ties Friday with Lance Armstrong’s former manager Johan Bruyneel after he was singled out as a central figure in the former Tour de France champion’s doping program.
The team said the decision was by “mutual agreement,” adding that Bruyneel “can no longer direct the team in an efficient and comfortable way.”
“His departure is desirable to ensure the serenity and cohesiveness within the team,” RadioShack said in a statement.
The announcement came two days after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s damning report on Armstrong exposed the doping program within the U.S. Postal Service team that Bruyneel managed when Armstrong rode to seven straight Tour de France victories from 1999-05.
“In light of these testimonies, both parties feel it is necessary to make this decision,” RadioShack said.
Bruyneel, who was general manager of the team, has his own legal battle with USADA and has chosen to go to arbitration to fight charges that he led doping programs for Armstrong’s teams.
The RadioShack team’s sponsors include longtime Armstrong backers Nike, Trek, Oakley and Livestrong.
Armstrong and Bruyneel were an unbreakable partnership for years, with Armstrong widely crediting the Belgian for helping him achieve his Tour successes on a U.S. Postal team that dominated cycling’s showcase race.
Armstrong rode his final Tour in 2010 under Bruyneel’s leadership, with the new RadioShack team that Armstrong co-owned. Bruyneel also helped Spaniard Alberto Contador win the 2007 Tour for the Discovery team and worked with both Armstrong and Contador on the 2009 Tour, which Contador also won.
USADA’s 200-page report pinpointed Bruyneel as the focal point of massive doping throughout the U.S. Postal team’s heyday.
“The overwhelming evidence in this case is that Johan Bruyneel was intimately involved in all significant details of the U.S. Postal team’s doping program,” USADA said. “He was on top of the details for organizing blood transfusion programs before the major tours, and he knew when athletes needed to take EPO to regenerate their blood supply after extracting blood.”
The report added that Bruyneel “learned how to introduce young men to performance-enhancing drugs, becoming adept at leading them down the path from newly minted professional rider to veteran drug user.”
RadioShack thanked Bruyneel for his “dedication and devotion” to the team, but was quick to further distance itself from him.
“The USADA investigation does not concern the activities of Mr. Bruyneel while managing” the RadioShack-Nissan team, the statement said.
At this year’s Tour, RadioShack-Nissan team leader Frank Schleck tested positive for a banned diuretic. The Luxembourg rider was pulled from the Tour after the International Cycling Union said he had tested positive for the banned diuretic Xipamide.