LeMond: ‘no vendetta’ against Armstrong
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond says he has “no vendetta” against disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong and hopes professional cycling can clean up its sport.
LeMond spoke Monday night at a University of Texas symposium on doping in sports. Despite more than a decade of clashes with Armstrong in a feud that he said pushed him out of cycling, LeMond was restrained in his criticism of the rider who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles in a doping scandal.
Armstrong was just beginning his run of seven consecutive victories when LeMond publicly criticized his relationship with Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari. Ferrari is now a central figure in the Armstrong case for his involvement in the U.S. Postal Service doping program, and has been banned from sports for life.
“I have no vendetta against Armstrong,” LeMond said.
He also said “I don’t rejoice” over Armstrong being stripped of his victories, even though it means LeMond is now recognized as the only American winner of cycling’s most prestigious race. LeMond won the Tour de France in 1986, 1989 and 1990.
Joining LeMond for the two-hour panel was his wife, Kathy, Betsy Andreu, a key witness against Armstrong and the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, and Bill Bock, attorney for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which investigated Armstrong.
Armstrong did not attend the symposium in the city where he lives and declined comment when reached by The Associated Press.
Betsy Andreu said she tried to meet with Armstrong, but he refused.
“He didn’t trust me,” she said.
LeMond said professional cycling won’t clean up its doping problem until drug testing is run by someone other than the sport’s governing body, the International Cycling Union known as UCI.
“Drug testing has to be separated from UCI,” LeMond said. “It’s not a game.”
LeMond said riders don’t trust the UCI, which has tried to defend itself against criticism that it helped Armstrong cover up doping offenses. LeMond noted that European legal authorities have pursued drug cheats in recent years.
“I want to see cycling get to where I can say I can see a real winner,” LeMond said.
Bock noted that UCI was highly critical of the USADA investigation and tried to stop it.
“They demanded we drop the case,” Bock said.
Andreu said doping in sports won’t clean up until athletes face criminal charges for cheating. A federal criminal grand jury had investigated Armstrong but prosecutors dropped the case in February 2012 without explanation.
“Make doping a crime. Athletes don’t want to face jail,” Andreu said.
LeMond said he believes cycling can clean up.
“I’m hopeful,” LeMond said. “I’m not optimistic with UCI involved ... I love cycling. I believe cycling is an incredible sport.”
Bock said cycling should remain vigilant about catching cheaters and should not treat Armstrong’s doping with his U.S. Postal Service team as an isolated case.
“The ultimate tragedy would be if this whole scenario would be viewed as the Lance Armstrong affair,” Bock said.