In a statement released on his website this afternoon, Johan Bruyneel announced that he will not be attending the 2012 Tour de France in his role as General Manager of the Radioshack-Nissan Trek team.
I'm sad to say that I've decided for the first time in many years I will not be attending this year's Tour de France. The story of the Tour should be the achievements of its riders and the thrill of our great sport. I dearly wish to be there but my attendance in light of the recent USADA allegations against me would be an unwelcome distraction to my team, and to all those participating in and supporting the Tour.
While Bruyneel's statement tried to paint the decision as his own, this is very unlikely. He is under investigation by the US Anti Doping Administration (USADA) for charges of possession, administration, trafficking, and encouraging the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs.
The absence of Bruyneel from the Tour was expected by many following the efforts of the ASO to block certain riders from participating in the Tour de France due to public image concerns. In 2008 they tried to keep Tom Boonen - then mired in the aftermath of a positive out-of-competition test for cocaine - from participating, though Boonen's team successfully appealed the decision. In the same year, the ASO did not invite Astana - including then General Manager Bruyneel - to any of its events due to doping infractions in the prior years even though the team's management and many of its riders had changed.
While Bruyneel's non-attendance may be due in part to pressure by the ASO, he also likely faced internal pressure from Radioshack Nissan - Trek's sponsors. Leopard SA, the organization which owns the team, released a statement last Friday that stated that it would "take all appropriate measures, in order to guarantee its sporting integrity and the general interest of cycling" even though the actions the USADA charges against Bruyneel detail all occurred prior to Bruyneel's collaboration with the Leopard SA organization. The allegations do include the first year of the Radioshack Team, which merged with Team Leopard Trek last year.
The Radioshack - Nissan Trek team at the Tour de France will be led by several of its sporting directors. In his parting words, Bruyneel stated "I have a lot of confidence in the quality and experience of the team directors who will direct our team at the Tour de France. I wish the directors, riders and support staff good luck in what should be a thrilling race."
Operation Puerto effectively ended the career of Manolo Saiz, one of the most successful team managers in recent cycling history. In the same manner, the USADA investigation into Lance Armstrong's alleged use of doping products under Bruyneel's care may end the career of the team manager with the record for number of team Tour de France overall victories.