After Brandt and Bruylandts, Belgian cycling is bracing itself for a further wave of scandal as well
According to reports emanating from Belgium, the head of Belgian cycling’s anti-doping commission is pursuing a four year ban on Jo Planckaert, Chris Peers, and, most significantly to Belgian fans, former Classics champion Johan Museeuw, who retired last spring. It has been a busy summer for the Belgian Cycling League (LVB). Dave Bruylandts was suspended for 18 months after a positive out-of-competition EPO test in April, while Christophe Brandt was thrown off the Tour de France in July after a positive test for methadone. Yesterday three bigger names at the heart of Belgian road racing were under the microscope. The latest trauma centres on the ‘Landuyt-Versele Affair,’ so-called after Belgian vet Jos Landuyt and soigneur Herman Versele, who are implicated in the traffic of doping products among cyclists. Things came to a head almost a year ago, on September 4 2003, when searches at the homes of several riders including Mario De Clercq, Planckaert, Peers and Museeuw opened the floodgates of scandal. So far, Museeuw, who retired a hero after this year’s Spring Classics, has ridden out the storm. Yesterday he and the other riders involved appeared before the LVB’s disciplinary commission, although the process was held behind closed doors. “Because it was held behind closed doors we are not at liberty to make any statement or comment, or to pass on any details,” said Tom Van Damme, sposkesman of the LVB. Despite that, the Belgian media reports that it is known that on the basis of the cases compiled, which include recordings of phone calls, that public prosecutor Jaak Fransen has requested a suspension for each rider of four years. Such a ban would certainly end the careers of Peers and Planckaert, both of whom are 34. But where does that leave the recently-retired Museeuw? Presumably, if a ban was to be imposed on him, if would not affect a racing career that is now over, but it would seriously tarnish the increasingly tattered image of the ‘Lion of Flanders.’ It would also almost certainly cloud his ambitions to become a directeur sportif and would negatively impact on his suitability for such a role.