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Armstrong meets with Bassons to apologize for past behaviour

Cycling News
December 7, 2013, 12:35,
December 8, 2013, 22:03
First Edition Cycling News, Saturday, December 7, 2013
Christophe Bassons signs autographs during the 1999 Tour de France.

Christophe Bassons signs autographs during the 1999 Tour de France.

  • Christophe Bassons signs autographs during the 1999 Tour de France.
  • Lance Armstrong liked to control the media

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14 years after dispute, Armstrong and Frenchman bury the hatchet

Following his meeting with former US Postal soigneur Emma O’Reilly in Florida a few weeks ago, L’Équipe has reported that Lance Armstrong was in Paris on Friday where he made a second public burial of the hatchet with another of his old enemies, Frenchman Christophe Bassons.

The two could not have followed more different career paths since they fell out during the 1999 Tour, when Bassons was one of the first high-profile victims of Armstrong's bullying.

In 1999, after writing a column for French newspaper Le Parisien in which he questioned performances at the race, Bassons – already identified by his former Festina team-mates as the one rider who would not dope on the team – was allegedly pressured by Armstrong to quit the Tour, something Bassons now says did not happen in such clear terms. "I maybe felt it like that, but it's [also] been reported that Armstrong did me harm and threw me out of cycling, and that's not the case," Bassons told Armstrong, according to L’Équipe. "If you felt it like that, I'm sorry," Armstrong replied.

Bassons abandoned the race shortly afterwards, and retired from cycling two years later, at the age of 27. He then qualified as a sports teacher and now works in anti-doping in Bordeaux.

Sometimes described as a symbol of the Armstrong years and how clean riders were all too often frozen out of the sport, Bassons caught the train to Paris to meet up with Armstrong for their first conversation since 1999. Meanwhile, the American posed half-way down the Champs Elysées for a picture for the paper – "The taxi driver who brought me here didn't recognise me, he asked me if I knew it [the Champs]" the American wryly commented – before sitting down to a lengthy conversation with Bassons.

"There is a past and a present and now I think we can push forward the fight against doping and its prevention," Bassons said, while Armstrong admitted that the Frenchman "represents one extreme and I do another, whether that's [actually] true or not."

Asked by Bassons if he had any regrets about doping and lying, Armstrong said that he felt his 2009 comeback "was the worst idea I could possibly have I have regrets? I honestly don't know if I would change my mind if this choice was given to me today. But I would have like never to have taken it [that choice.]"

Armstrong named Christophe Bassons, Scott Mercier and Darren Clarke as three riders who "took a different decision" on doping during his career, although he added that "there were surely others, but those are the ones I know" and also insisted that the media estimations of the extent of doping in his era "was greatly over-exaggerated."

Bassons also said that he believed that the overall classification of the Tour would not have changed without doping. "I believe that you have physical and psychological qualities that are outside the norm," he told Armstrong, before adding "That you are here today, for me, is more impressive than having won seven Tours."

Armstrong made it plain, on several occasions, that he regretted the events of 1999 and what happened between himself and the Frenchman: "If my son one day was wearing the yellow jersey and I saw him talking to Bassons the way I did, I would have a long, long conversation with him. It’s one of the episodes of my life that I regret the most."

The meeting was arranged in part with the help of Jamie Fuller, the Australian who funded the Change Cycling Now think tank last year. "Honestly, I'd like if you and I had dinner with Crocodile Dundee [Fuller] and Antoine Vayer, but not in an official way," Armstrong told Bassons.

Indurain 11 months ago
Hard to know if Armstrong is sincere or all for the public image and secondary motives. But I guess Basson's felt he was sincere. Regardless, Armstrong basically admitted that he perhaps would make the same decision again (even now). That is proof he is sorry he got caught, not sorry for what he done. They need to keep him as far away from cycling as possible.
NashbarShorts 11 months ago
(He also told Bassons, "If you don't like my apology, just go away!!")
bing181 11 months ago
Where did he say that?
NashbarShorts 11 months ago
It's what he told Bassons the 1st time around... ("If you don't like cycling, why don't you just quit?")
bing181 11 months ago
Since when did "if you don't like my apology" equal "if you don't like cycling"? I would suggest that you delete your original post. It's simply untrue.
FaustoCoppi 11 months ago
Grow up
Jesus from Cancun 11 months ago
I believe that if he was 100% sincere he would do all this in private. But he wants us to know and comment about it. And here we are.
jabike 11 months ago
The meeting was set up by someone else, maybe trying to draw attention to his cause...
gerigeri 11 months ago
Yes, i agree primarily this is for the public, but also sincere. If it wasn't then he could say easily that "i wouldn't make this decision"... Honestly, no one knows what you would do if you were in the same situation...
Stalky 11 months ago
He has something to prove. I don't have a problem with it being public.
DavidConnell 11 months ago
Actually, no, it should be public. If you wrong someone in front of a room full of people, you apologize to that person in front of the same room full of people.
sleepwell 11 months ago
They are all just sorry that they got caught. Look at Garmin. They are all just sorry they got caught.
MonkeyFace 11 months ago
No one really cares that Lance doped. A lot of cyclist have been caught, served their suspension, and returned without any drama. The reason why Lance has so much heat on him is that he has committed perjury, insurance fraud, witness intimidation, outright slander, using his cancer foundation for profit, sabotage a former tour de france's bicycle business, using sway with politicians to try to destroy USADA, pressuring teammates to commit perjury, involved in UCI corruption, blacklisting anyone in the cycling industry who he didn't like, and using people's support of cancer patients as a shield for his illicit activities.
mutschi 11 months ago
Nice summary, thanks. Please keep on reminding people as some get "managed" by him again. It is very very unlikely that a sociopath will ever change. Those few who did usually go through a major personal crisis (often in prison), submit themselves to extensive psychotherapy or find god. None of them did it on the golf course trying to improve their handicap and clear their head. People, don't get fooled again otherwise you look really stupid.
sleepwell 11 months ago
Then charge him with those crimes. You can't suspend him from cycling because of those things.
leftbehind 11 months ago
He wasn't banned from cycling for those things. He was banned for doping and conspiracy to dope.
twistedneck 11 months ago
Most if not all of the things you reference here are all based on a doping cover up, and once that's out the rest will go away. I would guess that the ordinary citizen has committed at least some of those things in his lifetime, including you. why are you so bitter?
MonkeyFace 11 months ago
I would guess most citizens have committed at some of those things in their lifetime? LANCE, WE YOU NEED BETTER INTERNS.
mikeelmer 11 months ago
I disagree. I think that he is being realistic, given at the time the vast majority of pros were doping, the only way to do well was to dope. I think he is acknowledging that he wouldn't have been strong enough under the pressures of the time
Chuck_T 11 months ago
"given at the time the vast majority of pros were doping, the only way to do well was to dope." not according to Armstrong.... "and also insisted that the media estimations of the extent of doping in his era "was greatly over-exaggerated."
Lucifa 11 months ago
Why should we listen to a word you say? Going by your screen name "indurain" you support cycling drug cheats!
NashbarShorts 11 months ago
Surprised he had time to squeeze that in before his tee time...
FaustoCoppi 11 months ago
You are very immature
NashbarShorts 11 months ago
And obviously you are Lance posting under the FaustoCoppi alias.
FaustoCoppi 11 months ago
And obviously you're very immature
mutschi 11 months ago
Cynical, not immature. And spot on.
Stalky 11 months ago
A little something called priorities
movingtarget 11 months ago
Like someone said before. People are rarely all bad or all good. I think Armstrong is making the effort and he knows this sort of thing won't necessarily change people's minds or make people see him as a better person and Bassons is stating what a lot of people still believe. That Armstrong still would have won those races. Greg Lemond obviously sees it differently.
sbroaddus 11 months ago
saying Armstrong still would've won those races means nothing. all it does is allow all the people that were duped by his cheating to feel like there was at least something authentic about the yellow jerseys that he "won", and there wasn't. the punishment for doping is elimination from the race. Lemond won the Tour 3 times, LA zero.
Alpe73 11 months ago
nepetalactone 11 months ago
I'm pretty sure that the vast majority of the people in those tours with Lance see it otherwise.
sbroaddus 11 months ago
anyone still has the right to see Lance as a winner.
movingtarget 11 months ago
Really ? So why not go down the list for each of his Tours and award the race to the the first guy that had not been caught or admitted doping. Because it would have been to embarrassing for Prudhomme to go down to seventh or 8th place for some of those wins and award the race to someone else. For example in Evan's first Tour I think it was where he finished 8th, every rider in front of him has been banned at some point. Ullrich's second places were meaningless as he was on the juice as well. I agree that Armstrong should have the win taken off him like Riis but if he did not win the race who did ?
sbroaddus 11 months ago
i don't disagree with anything you say, and my answer to your last question would be that Prudhomme absolutely should take this to its logical end and give the jersey to the first rider that appears to deserve it.... perhaps Evans has won two Tours instead of just one!
twistedneck 11 months ago
hmm.. if saying it means nothing why did you comment on it then? so now all of your other comments are blacklisted! who was duped by his cheating? I am trying to think here if there was a cyclist who didn't know he cheated and got duped by it. actually I cant think of anyone on earth who got duped by it except maybe his kids if he lied to them. LOL at not authentic wins, the only thing not authentic is you commenting on cycling. doping was a way of life for cyclists since the turn of the 20th century - you been hiding under a rock or what?? Lemond won three times, yes, excellent, and unless you are mentally challenged you know he was doped out of his mind too, just as any good pro was back then. if you were a sub par rider then maybe you would not have had the benefit of doping... but Lemond was top quality and had an excellent program i'm sure.
sbroaddus 11 months ago
worship your false idol until kingdom come if you like. guess what the record books will say in 100 years... that's right, Lance didn't win the Tour, not even once. every fan in the world that watched him "win" was cheated, doesn't matter how many of his competitors doped, or how many have ever doped, do you know the penalty for doping? sure, you can pretend you were an "insider" and you knew Lance was doping ever since he won the world's way back when, but that doesn't mean anything. and by the way, we all have opinions, you'd show a little more maturity if you extended due respect to people who's opinions might differ from yours.
Alan D 11 months ago
Well, I can't figure out why, but I'm giving Armstrong the benefit of the doubt. For him to eat crow is a major shift. Almost irrelevant given the Big Picture, but Michele Ferrari reckons if the entire field was clean during those years, Ullrich would have been as Eddy Merckx was in the 60-70s... just a cardiovascular freak, apparently. But tellingly, he also reckons that most of the top 30 riders would still be the top 30-ish, just in some different order. And let's face it...Ferrari would know. My take is that the top 30 were all on the juice and many in the top 200 weren't... I'm with LeMond on this one.
Mestre 11 months ago
"People are rarely all bad or all good." This is a very good point. In the case of Armstrong, perhaps the problem that a lot of people have is that the "bad" part is so off the scale that it's very, very difficult to reconcile it with any positive traits that he may have. Independently of his past behaviour, he is most definitely a very complicated and intriguing character, as well a being very, very, very difficult to trust. I'm sure he'll get hammered here for saying it, but within his slipperiness this is a pretty honest answer: "I honestly don’t know if I would change my mind if this choice was given to me today. But I would have like never to have taken it [that choice.]”
jabike 11 months ago
One of my biggest mistakes has made me a better man today. I, similar to what Lance said, would like to have never had made the decision I did. It is difficult to determine the sincerity of what Lance is doing and saying today especially as we compare it to his past. He still controls the narrative, maybe not to the same extent, but he still does. Is it sincere? Fair question to ask, but not fair for us to answer for him I don't think. Anyways.... His (read his, not ours) path to redemption, is as you said, very complicated and intriguing. He will fail probably a good 100 times for every successful apology. He will continue to have to face not only his personal demons but the ones he conjured up to fight the people who contradicted him. He may never get Betsy (or others) to actually forgive him. He will still be used by other people to further their personal agendas. I personally think he will find his redemption. I personally don't think he will ever really "compete" again...although you never know he could become a pro golfer, not under WADA so maybe. I personally think his tours will be restored but it may not happen while he's alive. All we can hope for is that he is being honest, if he's not, that's not on us, that's on him. Our righteous anger should be directed at something more positive like creating better safety for cyclists on the road.
wfaulconer 11 months ago
Such a thoughtful comment. Well said, and your last sentence is huge.
sbroaddus 11 months ago
yes, good comment, except for one small thing.... you "think his tours will be restored"?! and perhaps not for another 35+ years?! very intriguing, but what a long shot! what would the odds on that in Vegas be?! probably longer than the chance of hell freezing over.
jabike 11 months ago
I honestly think they will...I'm also ok being wrong on it though. Not sure if this is an American thing or a human thing, but we love the rise of a hero, the fall of a hero, and the redemption of the fallen hero. He's nowhere near being redeemed or for many people, redeemable, but to watch the struggle of a man's nature against the world is riveting story. Maybe I will be able to tell my own story but until then I will continue to strive to keep and grow the peace in my life and I hope we all can find that peace, even LA.
Alpe73 11 months ago
good post
sbroaddus 11 months ago
hey that's all good, and you're right, it is a riveting story. my curiosity about your comment was simply what kind of scenario you might be picturing where many years from now some kind of ruling would be made to allow Lance Armstrong his to have his "victories" back. there are certainly intriguing story lines continuing... Lance's belated search for redemption has only just begun, but his chance to retain any of his Tour victories already disappeared because he refused to sheath his sword until it was too late.
jabike 11 months ago
To sbroaddus: I honestly don't know, I can imagine a few scenarios, but the most likely is either posthumously or at some anniversary date 25 yrs/50 yrs. 100% don't think it will be till after the "whistleblower" case is settled...well after all his cases are settled to be more specific.
benignlyindifferent 11 months ago
Doesn't really matter what you or I think, only what Bassons thinks, and he believes Armstrong is sincere. In a way, Lance has been stripped bare and must feel good about himself when he apologizes to others as this is a normal human trait. I found it funny that the taxi driver asked if Armstrong was familiar with the Champs. Also, goes to prove that even memories of Lance, good or bad, fade into history with time.
DrBigRing 11 months ago
CyclingNews should change its name to CyclingHistory.
colnago200 11 months ago
Weird how no one expects this sort of retribution from Virenque, Jalabert, Ullrich. Double standards again
Eric Blais 11 months ago
Virenque is not a bully... he is just a cry baby. I can't stand Virenque. I can't believe one the biggest doper, is still a french national hero.
Tonton 11 months ago
It would be double standards if RV, LJ, or JU had won 7 TdF, bullied people, and so forth. These three never insulted our intelligence to the extend that LA did, i.e. the 'what are you on' commercial, the speech on the podium in Paris, et caetera. They played dumb or possum, but were never arrogant/belligerent. Having said that, I'd like to think that LA is sincere, and although I am not a fan of his, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
Alan D 11 months ago
I just spent 5 weeks in France... didn't meet one cycling fan who respects Virenque. He's pretty much scorned , not so much for his doping as his prima donna antics. He's just a posterboy for housewife fantasies.
meals-on-wheels 11 months ago
From reading excerpts from another source what strikes me is how magnanimous Bassons is toward Armstrong. I hope that is not lost on him.
sbroaddus 11 months ago
it's in his DNA, he wouldn't dope because he knew it was wrong and it cheated all of his fellow competitors that he respected. LA on the other hand, well, he's certainly a horse of a different color.
Moose McKnuckles 11 months ago
Anything Armstrong does is for his own benefit. He's a scumbag. Oh, I don't remember Virenque, Jalabert, Ullrich threatening others, destroying people's careers, suing people and the like for speaking out against doping. That's why Lance deserves to be vilified. Because's a fraud and a bad person to boot.
Robert Palmer 11 months ago
Drama queen.
FaustoCoppi 11 months ago
Perhaps as he is now doing, he should be given the chance to apologize to those he hurt.
bing181 11 months ago
"Oh, I don't remember Virenque ... threatening others, destroying people's careers …" Cyclingnews certainly know their public, but it's perhaps unfortunate that the section of the article reporting on this meeting has omitted Bassons comments in regard to Virenque and his other teammates at Festina, as well as other French riders at the time. As Bassons says, it's not Armstrong who destroyed his career.
twistedneck 11 months ago
You may want to chill on the scumbag talk - every human does every action for his own benefit. Looking out for number 1 is a human trait. Virenque, Jalabert, Ulrich.. they were not the top, they were not the boss.. that was not their job to attack like it was Armstrong's . Threatening others (oh please), destroying people's careers? I've seen that in my field all the time, its actually quite common - we even go to court over it frequently its called a patent suit. oh he is such a bad person that lance! tell that to the countless number of cancer survivors who watched the 99 tour prologue and had tears in their eyes. that bad person he is.. they would smack you.
sbroaddus 11 months ago
and some of them might smack Lance these days.... quit telling us how to think and what you think a cancer survivor would feel like or do... take your tough guy act somewhere else. "every human does every action for his own benefit"? i think your twisted neck has done some real damage to whatever sits in your melon on top of it.
Alan D 11 months ago
Two points; Armstrong IS a bad person; we all are! All living creatures are hardwired to win, to survive. Everyone here seems to have a rose-tinted view that proffessional cycling is a sport... it is NOT. It is a business. Business is like nature.. yes there are ethics, but few morals when it comes down to it, and but frankly/sadly they're almost all for sale when it really comes down to it. I'm a very ethical businessman, but I can well witness less ethical people in my field being a lot more successful. Actually I'm both an ex-elite cat1 rider who didn;t go pro because one had to "get with the program"... AND a cancer survivor (exactly the same metastises as Armstrong). I never cried a tear in 99, and LA was an inspriration. I am deeply offended at the hijacking of the "cancer" cause he used to fuel his jet and ego with, but somehow I reckon he's seeing the error of his ways. But now I've got 30 years in business, I am also, ironically, pissed off I didn't "get with the program" and make a career of cycling, although to be honest, I wouldn't have made it past middle of pack dommie/second lead-out man, and in the 70s those guys got paid shyte. So; Armstrong's ilk hijacked my career AND my pain and suffering through the entire cancer experience. Yet, what the hell, that was then, this is now, he's making amends. Build a bridge. Get over it.
mwbyrd 11 months ago
@Moose You need to separate the sporting events from the personal events. What he did to certain individuals was WRONG, but from a sporting point of view, Armstrong is the Fall Guy!. You have to admit that.
marquisfbs 11 months ago
mutschi 11 months ago
Absolutely not. LA became rich and famous because he did not separate sport and life (e.g cancer foundation, star relationships, endless lawsuits, business interests). So why should it be separated now? He chose that path (mixing things) and he gained lots from it. Suddenly, on his downfall, people say: "He should only be seen as sports person."
mwbyrd 11 months ago
@mutschi - what is the discussion about? It's not about his fame, this is about him trying to come clean, apologize, etc. Do you really think he should be the only cyclist to lose his Tour Titles considering he was doing what 99% of the peloton was doing during his time? Be honest and don't let his personality, business success etc. influence your answer.
mutschi 11 months ago
To start - 99% doing it is clearly how Armstrong spins it to make his extreme doping look normal. And he contradicts himself in exactly this interview by admitting that the amount of doping in the peloton is exaggerated. However, I agree that there was a lot of doping and a lot of winners of the TdF doped. So why should they keep their wins and Armstrong shouldn't? For me there are three reasons why: 1. According to the "wheelmen" book he was offered that he can keep two titles if he comes forward. I could live with that and I think it would have been level with the other doped winners and about right. He was a good bike rider but he was no Hinault or Mercx or Lemond. But he didn't accept that offer. He fought nail and tooth against it. And he used all his other "non-sport" resources to fight it. He gambled and he lost. 2. Too keep his 7 titles would just be outrageous for the image of the sport as this would make him one off the biggest sports person in the history of sport. People who claim such lofty titles are huge role models for the next generation. What message does that send out to young kids getting into sport? You can cheat like hell, you can be a bully and a sociopath - it doesn't matter. You get away with it. You can keep your 7 TdF titles. It's ok. I don't want my children have role models like that. 3. Yes, many in the peloton doped. But there is normal doping and "very sophisticated organized whole team doping. You can't compare the doping what Armstrong did with what most of the other dopers did. Hamilton's book makes it clear. There were only a handful of big stars who could even afford what Armstrong did. Telekom might have been on a similar level, maybe. But the rest? No access to Ferrari and all the logistics. Because of the costs and sophistication even amongst the dopers it wasn't a "level playing field". What I am saying is: Armstrong got way more out of his doping than the other top riders did because he was simply richer to pay for it and more clever to organize it all for himself. Plus he got his whole team doped up which was a big part of his wins. Without all that I don't think he could have won 7 times and beat Ullrich all the time. By his own admission he always considered Ullrich as the more talented bike rider. He beat him because he was the more talented doper in my opinion. As I said, to make it level with other doped TdF winners two titles are ok for me. But he gambled for 7 and lost. I would fully support if Mikel Indurain would get stripped of at least 3 wins as I don't believe that he didn't dope. Maybe that will still happen.