The dirty past of the Tour de France came back on Friday to haunt the
100th edition of cycling's showcase race, with Lance Armstrong telling a
newspaper he couldn't have won without doping.
interview with Le Monde was surprising on many levels, not least
because of his long-antagonistic relationship with the respected French
daily that first reported in 1999 that corticosteroids were found in the
American's urine as he was riding his way to the first of his seven
Tour wins. In response, Armstrong complained he was being persecuted by
"vulture journalism, desperate journalism."
Now seemingly prepared to let bygones be bygones, Armstrong told Le
Monde he still considers himself the record-holder for Tour victories,
even though all seven of his titles were stripped from him last year for
doping. He also said his life has been ruined by the U.S. Anti-Doping
Agency investigation that exposed as lies his years of denials that he
and his teammates doped.
The interview was the latest blast from cycling's doping-tainted recent history to rain on the 100th Tour.
Armstrong's former rival on French roads, 1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich,
confessed to blood-doping for the first time with a Spanish doctor.
French media also reported that a Senate investigation into the
effectiveness of anti-doping controls pieced together evidence of drug
use at the 1998 Tour by Laurent Jalabert, a former star of the race now
Not surprising in Armstrong's
interview was his claim that it was "impossible" to win the Tour without
doping when he was racing. Armstrong already told U.S. television talk
show host Oprah Winfrey when he finally confessed this January that
doping was just "part of the job" of being a pro cyclist.
banned hormone erythropoietin, or EPO, wasn't detectable by cycling's
doping controls until 2001 and so was widely abused because it prompts
the body to produce oxygen-carrying red blood cells, giving a big
performance boost to endurance athletes.
clearly talking about his own era, rather than the Tour today. Le Monde
reported that he was responding to the question: "When you raced, was it
possible to perform without doping?"
"That depends on
which races you wanted to win. The Tour de France? No. Impossible to win
without doping. Because the Tour is a test of endurance where oxygen is
decisive," Le Monde quoted Armstrong as saying. It published the
interview in French.
Some subsequent media reports about
Le Monde's interview concluded that Armstrong was saying doping is still
necessary now, rather than when he was winning the Tour from 1999-2005.
That suggestion provoked dismay from current riders, race organizers
and the sport's governing body, the International Cycling Union or UCI.
he's saying things like he doesn't think that it's possible to win the
Tour clean, then he should be quiet - because it is possible," said
American rider Tejay van Garderen of the BMC team.
later by The Associated Press to clarify his comments, Armstrong said on
Twitter that he was talking about the period from 1999-2005. He
indicated that doping might not be necessary now.
"Today? I have no idea. I'm hopeful it's possible," he tweeted.
In a statement issued before that clarification, UCI President Pat McQuaid called the timing of Armstrong's comments "very sad."
can tell him categorically that he is wrong. His comments do absolutely
nothing to help cycling," McQuaid said in a statement. "The culture
within cycling has changed since the Armstrong era and it is now
possible to race and win clean.
"Riders and teams owners have been forthright in saying that it is possible to win clean - and I agree with them."