UCI president Brian Cookson has voiced his opposition to Lance Armstrong's participation in a charity ride on the route of this year's Tour de France, stating that it would be “completely inappropriate and disrespectful."
Armstrong has been invited by former England and Crystal Palace footballer Geoff Thomas to join him on part of his fund-raising ride for the Cure Leukaemia charity in France this July. Thomas, who cited Armstrong as an inspiration during his recovery from leukaemia a decade ago, is set to ride the entire route of the 2015 Tour one day ahead of the race. The Daily Mail has reported that Armstrong will join him for two stages.
"I'm sure that Geoff Thomas means well, but frankly, I think that's completely inappropriate and disrespectful to the Tour, disrespectful to the current riders, and disrespectful to the UCI and the anti-doping community," Cookson said on Tuesday, according to AFP. “I think Lance would be well-advised not to take part in that."
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life in 2012 following USADA's investigation into the doping system in place at his US Postal team. The American subsequently confessed to doping in January 2013 and provided testimony to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission last year.
Cookson was speaking at the Sport Industry Breakfast Club in London, and he dismissed the notion that the Armstrong’s presence is justifiable on the basis that the event is for charity. "I've heard that reason rolled out throughout Lance Armstrong's career as well," he said. "I'm not critical of people trying to raise funds for charity, let's be clear. But I think maybe Lance could find a better way of continuing his fundraising efforts than this."
While Armstrong is prohibited from taking part in organised sporting events – he was unable, for instance, to take part in the Gran Fondo Hincapie event last year – there are no regulations to prevent him from riding as part of Thomas’ initiative in July.
"Lance Armstrong can ride his bike around France as often as he likes. It's got nothing to do with me or the UCI," Cookson said.