Bernaudeau calls dopers 'thieves'
Brioches manager Bernaudeau hits out, even criticising the star he signed to lead his own team.
Brioches La Boulangre manager Jean-Ren Bernaudeau has waded sensationally into the murky waters of the doping debate, branding those who use drugs to enhance their performance “thieves”. Bernaudeau is the 47-year-old former team-mate of Bernard Hinault whose team, composed singularly of French riders at the Tour, is frequently held up as one of the cleanest in the peloton. While reinforcing that impression, Bernaudeau’s comments in Le Journal du Dimanche may not ingratiate him in all quarters of the peloton. As well as the prevailing tide in cycling in general, Bernaudeau levelled scathing criticism at Joseba Beloki, Cofidis and David Millar, and even the late, lamented Marco Pantani. “I hope that this Tour marks a change in cycling. at the moment this is an unhealthy environment,” Bernaudeau began. “Two riders from the same team (the Euskaltel riders Gorka Gonzalez and David Etxebarria) have failed blood tests in the space of one month. It can only mean that they haven’t got the message. All [dopers] have one thing in common: they steal results, glory and money from riders who are honest. I can no longer accept everyone being tarred with the same brush, as dopers.” Bernaudeau said that he would be “stunned” if there was doping in his team. On the eve of last week’s French national championships, a Brioches La Boulangre rider, Thomas Voeckler was challenged by Cdric Vasseur, one of several Cofidis riders currently at the centre of judge Richard Pallain’s Paris-based doping inquiry. Voeckler went on to become French champion, Vasseur to be dumped out of Cofidis’ Tour team. Allegations against Vasseur centre on his links with the controversial Italian sports doctor Massimo De Ritis. “Thomas gave him the name and address of a good GP in Nantes because Vasseur apparently felt the need to go to an Italian doctor,” Bernaudeau told le Journal du Dimanche. “That’s typical of Thomas. He makes a fine champion of France, who has a strong message to send out.” One eventuality that some, and especially race organisers ASO, are dreading at the Tour is a visit from the French drugs police. Not Bernaudeau: “I’m not fearful of it. I want it. A raid every day if that’s what’s necessary, providing that it isn’t done for maximum dramatic effect, at five o’clock in the morning. Until now the cops have been more effective than the sporting regulations.” According to Bernaudeau, cycling’s authorities need to step up random, out-of competition testing: “We you are part of an elite, you have duties to fulfil,” he said. “They should be able to drop in on us at any time. At the moment the testers warn you by telephone. It’s like having a signpost: ‘Radar at 500m!'” After taking aim at the men who control cycling, Bernaudeau proceeded to take pot shots at some of the sport’s most illustrious names. First up was Joseba Beloki. The Basque parted company with Brioches La Boulangre two weeks before the Tour. This followed a dispute with the team’s medical staff about his entitlement to use an asthma medicine, Pulmicort, which is banned in France. “Beloki was a casting error.his signing was a mistake,” Bernaudeau admitted yesterday. “In our team the rider’s health is the sole responsibility of the medical staff. If they say that a rider is simply suffering from an allergy, that he isn’t asthmatic and that he can’t use a certain product, they have the last word.” Next in the firing line was Marco Pantani: “Pantani was anything but exemplary. I didn’t like him as a rider, either. The image of him that stays fixed in my brain is a pitiful one. In 2000 he set the race alight in the Alps then he left the race in the middle of the night. He was a great climber, but not a champion. I send my condolences to his family, that’s all. I refused to sign an autograph on a copy of Vlo magazine (a French cycling monthly) which had him on the cover.” The tirade continued with a message – hardly brimming with sympathy – for Britain’s David Millar. “Does David Millar know that there are young riders who will be labelled as dopers because of him?” One of the only men to be spared the Bernaudeau hair-dryer treatment was Lance Armstrong. “I see many positive things in Armstrong,” said the Brioches supremo. “He projects a good image of our sport. His professional, obsessive approach is an inspiration. He’s a great champion. Anyone who says the opposite has to come up with evidence to back up their convictions.”