Belgian cycling legend facing graft charges

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BRUSSELS – Cycling legend Eddy Merckx is facing charges in a corruption case concerning the sale of bikes to police in Belgium, judicial sources confirmed to AFP on Tuesday after a report in La Derniere Heure newspaper.

The daily said the five-times winner of the Tour de France was alleged to have been told by the police in Anderlecht about a plan to provide 48 bikes to them in 2006 and 2007.

At the time, Merckx headed a cycle manufacturing business in his own name and according to the newspaper, was allegedly told of the price proposed by his competitors, allowing him to adapt his offer to win the contract.

The police chief later received a top-of-the-range bike at a “favorable price”, it was claimed.

The daily said that Merckx was set to have been charged on Dec. 6 last year but the date was pushed back as he was due to receive France’s highest civilian award, the Legion of Honour, on Dec. 15 at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

According to the newspaper, the case is part of a wider corruption inquiry, focusing in particular on the sale of cars to the Brussels police and implicating a number of senior police officers.

Public prosecutors in Brussels said they did not want to make any comment when contacted by AFP. Merckx was not available to comment on Tuesday morning.

Merckx is considered to be the greatest cyclist in the sport’s history and is Belgium’s most famous sporting son. He created his own bike factory at the end of the 1970s before selling it to a Belgian businessman in 2008.

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