By "mutual agreement," Team Radio Shack-Nissan-Trek and Johan Bruyneel parted ways today, according to a team press release. The statement left no doubt why, citing the USADA findings, released earlier this week, which detailed the extensive and coordinated doping that went on under Bruyneel's supervision as Directeur Sportif of the US Postal and Discovery Channel teams.
In the USADA report, Bruyneel is cited by name 129 times and is accused of being at the center of the sophisticated doping regime that propelled Lance Armstrong and US Postal/Discovery to a record seven Tour de France wins. Those wins have all been vacated (and not to be reassigned, according to Tour de France director Christophe Prudhomme), and the entire Armstrong-led project has been torn down to its foundation this week by the USADA's very detailed, corroborated and convincing allegations.
Bruyneel's fate has been the subject of speculation throughout the process, as many observers have been waiting to see how deep the scandal ran. Fabian Cancellara was known to harbor some doubts about continuing under Bruyneel's direction, a sentiment he expressed after the report came out. As to the report, it came as no surprise to many that Bruyneel was deeply implicated, as details of the doping regime's sophistication came to light. For Bruyneel's future in the sport, the final publication of the USADA report was fatal.
And the problems for Bruyneel don't stop there. The Belgian cycling federation has said it will review the case now, as the dossier progresses from an American investigation and media reports to an official evidentiary file. If found guilty of any infractions of Belgian anti-doping codes (of which there is roughly a 100% chance), Bruyneel faces penalties from his home federation of a suspension or lifetime expulsion.
Reactions from his former squad range from Cancellara's criticism to Andy Schleck stating that what happens to Bruyneel is his problem. No doubt though, there must be tremendous relief on the current roster of riders, given that the alternative of Bruyneel continuing while battling the UCI and/or the Belgian Federation was a nightmare scenario. At a minimum, Bruyneel's presence would distract attention from anything happening on the road, and at worst his presence would raise suspicions about the current riders' "preparations," already a problem with Frank Schleck sidelined after the banned diuretic Xipamide turned up in a urine sample during the 2012 Tour de France.
For many fans, Bruyneel's continued presence was always an issue, and his departure closes another ugly chapter in cycling lore. After this week, Bruyneel's supporters probably don't extend beyond his immediate family and the Armstrong legal team. Good riddance, Johan.
Update! Bruyneel issues a statement:
I have decided to step back from my official team activities in order to concentrate on my defence, and in order to shield the RadioShack - Nissan - Trek cycling team from unnecessary distractions.
I am surprised and extremely disappointed that USADA released information in the public domain relating to their pending case against me before I had been given any opportunity to review the evidence and provide my defence against it. I still hope to be able to defend myself in a forum free from bias, although I now fear that USADA’s calculated action may have irreversibly prejudiced my case. It is a troubling facet of USADA’s approach to this case that it appears not to respect basic principles such as the right to be heard and the presumption of innocence.
I hope everyone will understand that in order to preserve the integrity of the on-going legal proceedings, I cannot unfortunately make any further comment for the time being. Once again, I would like to thank all of those who have reached out to me offering their support in these difficult days – it is very much appreciated.
Yes, those many voices in his head which are saying "You might as well win Johan! You might as well win!"