BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — American Chris Horner says he’s never seen doping or doping-related activity on any of the Johan Bruyneel-piloted teams he’s ridden for, from Astana to RadioShack-Nissan.
“Never seen it on the team. Never heard about it. Never seen it,” Horner told VeloNews Monday afternoon. “It’s just disappointing, everything you see, everything you read.”
Horner has raced for Bruyneel since 2008, first with Astana, then on to RadioShack in 2010 and RadioShack-Nissan in 2012. Bruyneel last week stepped down from his position at RadioShack-Nissan in light of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation into Lance Armstrong, which painted the two of them as the masterminds of an unprecedented doping conspiracy that accounted for Armstrong’s seven Tour de France wins.
“I didn’t see anything that was unbelievable. When you’re reading it now about he past, it’s hard to take and bad news,” Horner said of his time under Bruyneel, with two seasons alongside Armstrong. He said he never saw Armstrong dope in that time, and also that, while Armstrong posted strong results, Horner never saw any “unbelievable” riding from the Texan.
Earlier this summer, Horner said he didn’t believe that Armstrong cheated, though in 2007 he hinted that there was more to Armstrong’s team’s dominance than just bread and water, wondering just how a team — though he never said Armstrong’s, outright — could finish mountain stages with a cadre of riders around its leader.
“It is impossible to ride the front with your whole team and get to the final climb with most of your team still on the front — and be ready to come back and do it day-in and day-out,” he told cylingnews.com in 2007.
Horner is one of the top Americans of his generation, but lacks the major results of Armstrong or Levi Leipheimer, who recently admitted to doping over his career as part of the investigation. Omega Pharma-Quick Step sacked Leipheimer on Tuesday over his public admission. Horner was perhaps the best American cyclist of his generation to not saddle up for the U.S. Postal Service team, a largely American outfit that dominated international cycling under Armstrong and Bruyneel.
Horner’s name hasn’t appeared in the headlines during the USADA investigation, and he was able to race in this summer’s London Olympics and the 2012 world road championships — the last remaining soldier of American cycling’s old guard on the national road team.
“It’s certainly a bummer for me,” Horner said. “You get on there and it’s just bad news after bad news,” he said of cycling news outlets since the Armstrong case file broke a week ago. “I wish it wasn’t there. I wish you weren’t reading the stories and stuff. For me at the moment, it’s ‘when does all the bad news end?’”
Horner’s first major team was Française des Jeux (1997-99), which he joined after turning pro with PAA-NutraFig in 1995. Horner tore his way through the domestic circuit with Mercury (2000), Prime Alliance (2002), Saturn (2003) and Webcor (2000-2004) before returning to Europe in 2004 with Saunier Duval. He rode with Lotto in 2006 and 2007 before signing on with Bruyneel at Astana.
On Tuesday, he recalled racing in Europe when he was younger.
“I remember getting everything handed to me,” Horner said. “It was a hard time to be a bike racer. You can go back and look at my results… You look at it, and it is what it is.”
Horner said he finds it “strange” the way information trickled out surrounding the investigation, and knew something was coming due to the Olympic selections. He wouldn’t say much about the recent findings.
“I find it just strange. The way everything’s been released,” he said. “I’m keeping pretty much my facts to myself at the moment.”
Horner, though, sees a cleaner sport right now, not just in the oblique future.
“You look at the young guys going over there,” he said, noting Tejay van Garderen, of BMC Racing. “They’re just doing so good.”
It’s too soon for any rider to know what the scorched earth of professional cycling will bear in the years after Armstrong. Horner certainly hopes something good comes from the investigation.
“I think in general the sport will live and go through it and come out the other side of it,” he said. “You see so much of the sport changing. It’s a great time to have your kid being a bike racer.”
Asked why his name hasn’t come up at all in regards to the USADA case, Horner laughed.
“’Cause I wasn’t teammates with those guys, I guess,” he said.