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Bruyneel leaves RadioShack over Armstrong case

By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - Johan Bruyneel, Lance Armstrong's team manager on the American's seven Tour de France wins, has left RadioShack Nissan after being implicated in his former protege's doping scandal, the team said on Friday.

Bruyneel was named in the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) report released this week which said he was one of the people who had helped Armstrong organize doping within the U.S. Postal Team.

"Acting in mutual agreement, on October 12 Leopard SA and Johan Bruyneel decided to end their collaboration. From this day on, Johan Bruyneel will no longer act in the position of General Manager of cycling team RadioShack Nissan Trek," a team statement read.

"The reasoned decision published by the USADA included a number of testimonies as a result of their investigation. In light of these testimonies, both parties feel it is necessary to make this decision since Johan Bruyneel can no longer direct the team in an efficient and comfortable way."

Bruyneel was Armstrong's team manager when the Texan won his seven Tours from 1999-2005 as well as during his two Tour rides in 2009 and 2010 after his comeback from a 3-1/2 year retirement.

"I have decided to step back from my official team activities in order to concentrate on my defense, and in order to shield the RadioShack Nissan Trek cycling team from unnecessary distractions," Bruyneel said in a statement on his website (www.johanbruyneel.com).

"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 defense against it," he added.

"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," added the Belgian.

Bruyneel was among five people, including Armstrong, who were notified by USADA in June of doping allegations against them. He was accused of conspiring in an orchestrated doping program between 1998 and 2011.

"The overwhelming evidence in this case is that Johan Bruyneel was intimately involved in all significant details of the U.S. Postal team's doping program," the USADA report said.

A former professional rider, who finished seventh overall in the 1993 Tour de France, Bruyneel also helped Spaniard Alberto Contador to his two Tour wins in 2007 and 2009.

As a team manager, Bruyneel won the Tour of Spain twice with Roberto Heras in 2003 and Contador in 2008, as well as the Giro d'Italia with Italian Paolo Savoldelli in 2005 and Contador in 2008.

RadioShack, the team launched by Armstrong in 2010, became RadioShack Nissan Trek this season after merging with Luxembourg owner Flavio Becca's Leopard Trek outfit.

Bruyneel owns large parts of the team's infrastructure through his management company.

(Editing by John Mehaffey and Alison Wildey)

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