Chris Horner has leapt to the defence of Lance Armstrong after it was announced that USADA had brought doping charges against the seven-time Tour de France winner. The pair rode together at Astana and RadioShack, a period in time in which alleged doping infractions occurred. Armstrong has denied all charges levelled at him.
“I read the news like everyone else but you look at it with Lance and it’s the same stories that have been going around for years, forever, and it’s been relived and recycled many times. Lance has always come out clean from it,” Horner told Cyclingnews.
“I don’t believe Armstrong has cheated in any way to win those victories and he’s gone through an insane amount of testing. Do we have pictures of it? Video or testing? Because without that you really don’t have anything.”
USADA’s exact evidence is unknown, however, their 15 page letter to Armstrong and five other individuals – including Armstrong’s former and Horner’s current team boss – does include testimony from ten riders. Horner believes that their word should be questioned.
“I’ve been in the sport for a long time so I’ve heard these rumours and seen this stuff in the press and seen these allegations. Now I’ve read it again and I think USADA could be spending a lot of money on testing with the riders currently racing. Lance has had a legendary, unbelievable career that has just been fantastic to watch and to see what he’s done for the sport and against cancer. The guys that are saying it [doping] I have an idea who they are, just like you do, and you just have to wonder, are they telling the truth or not? But it’s the same story I’ve been hearing for a long time. You can’t crucify someone on that.”
Throughout both the FDA and now the USADA investigation Armstrong criticised the spending of US tax payers’ money into allegations of his and US Postal’s past and it’s a sentiment that Horner agrees with. The RadioShack veteran believes that the sport’s governing body and anti-doping agencies money would be better spent looking to the future, increasing their current rate of tests in a bid to remove cheats from the current peloton.
“There’s so much more that the drug agencies can be doing with the tax payers’ money on cleaning the sport up from this point on,” he told Cyclingnews.
“On the record, 100 percent, I loved racing with Lance. I love my experience I had with Lance and I would love to see USADA, WADA, and the UCI go forward and get the doping tests as controlled as possible and testing the riders who are racing their bikes now.”
Tour de France?
Having been omitted from RadioShack’s initial Tour de France long list there has been growing calls from the US media to install him in the team’s final nine. With Andy Schleck ruled out from injury the team is lighter in its ambitions for GC and Horner – 10th in the 2010 Tour – believes that he can perform a role for the team, whether it’s as a overall contender or a domestique.
“I’d love to go to the Tour. It’s the Tour and that’s an easy decision in terms of me wanting to go but the team makes the selection and I’m going to keep training up until the start and sending in my training SRM files to the team. All I can do is keep training and hopefully it works out.”
Horner refused to be drawn into the circumstances that lead to his current omission: “I don’t really want to comment on that because it’s created so much drama for the team. We’ve got fantastic sponsors with RadioShack and Nissan and I don’t want any bad press for them.
“I’m very good at looking after riders, like I was with Cadel Evans and I’ve been there for Lance and at big races for Alberto Contador. I was looking forward to helping Andy and Frank and I’m still looking forward to helping Frank. You’ve got to have guys on the team that can climb.”
RadioShack’s Tour place may come under scrutiny with RMC Sport reporting that ASO may remove them from the Tour due to USADA’s investigation.
“It would be a huge blow and unfair. I’ve not heard about any possibility of that from the team, though, but it would be truly unfair. We’ve got a great bunch of guys here and clean riders who love racing. It would be a bummer.”