Bernaudeau has no regrets about calling dope-cheats "thieves who steal glory, results and money offPICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Brioches La Boulangre boss Jean-Ren Bernaudeau spoke to procycling on Tuesday morning about the support he has received for the explosive remarks the Frenchman made at the weekend about doping. In an interview with France's Journal du Dimanche on Sunday, Bernaudeau hit out at riders who continue to use performance-enhancing substances, branding them "thieves." He singled out the Euskaltel team, Cdric Vasseur, David Millar, Joseba Beloki and Marco Pantani for particularly scathing and personal criticism. Euskaltel manager Michael Madariaga has responded with the threat of legal action (see separate story). Speaking to procycling in Waterloo this morning, Bernaudeau claimed that the reaction to his outburst had been immediate and warm elsewhere. "I received around 50 messages of support, via telephone calls and text messages," he said. "That was from private contacts, friends and members of the public. The other team managers? Well, I don't speak to some of them. But I didn't say it to provoke a reaction. I was asked to express an honest opinion. That's what I did." In Sunday's interview, Bernaudeau's spoke openly of his ambivalence towards the late Marco Pantani, a Tour winner in 1998. Pantani wasn't a good role model, and wasn't a true champion, Bernaudeau claimed. "I stand by what I said about Pantani," the Brioches supremo asserted. "I didn't sign an autograph on a magazine which had his face on the cover because I didn't like him. That's my personal sentiment. He was a good climber who was good at winning stages in the mountains, but not a champion. I also disagree that he was corrupted by the cycling milieu. Everyone has a choice; I have a team full of riders who haven't been corrupted. "At the 2000 Tour, Pantani pulled out of the race in Morzine two days after winning a stage because he said he was ill," Bernaudeau continued. "I can remember that two of my riders were also sick that night, but they carried on and finished the Tour. That was typical of his behaviour. He was no champion. I apologise to his fans, but that's my conviction." Bernaudeau cited Lance Armstrong as Pantani's counter-example - a good role-model. "Because, personally, I believe that he's a person to admire," Bernaudeau explained this morning. "What about his links with Michele Ferrari, you might say. I acknowledge that they bother me and they bother other people. However, on the whole, I believe that Armstrong projects a good image of himself and the sport." Bernaudeau, who remains "prudent" rather than "optimistic" about his chances of finding the new sponsor his team needs to survive in 2005, believes that "Armstrong is good for cycling". "We need people like him because, at the moment, there are too many people who don't care about cycling. That's my impression. Even those who invest in the sport too often say 'thank you and goodbye' after two years. The sport's future doesn't matter to them."