Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond is rarely afraid to speak his mind, and in an interview in the Colorado Daily Camera published on Saturday, the American spelled out some dramatic recommendations he has made to clean up the sport. LeMond was in Colorado for a charity event, and spoke frankly about his views on the state of the sport and what should be done to improve it.
LeMond travelled to the Tour de France this year, and while there, he met with the race director Christian Prudhomme, to whom he made some drastic recommendations. "I was asked what I thought could be done," LeMond stated in the interview, "and the first thing I said was to divorce yourself from the UCI." He continued, explaining his recommendation by stating the UCI has been negligent because they've "known what's been going on [doping -ed.] in cycling." He did concede that the organisation has "done a much better job under Pat McQuaid, no doubt."
The Tour organisers, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), were openly critical of the UCI during the Tour, even to the point where they denied UCI president Pat McQuaid official passes to the event. The battle between the UCI and the Grand Tour organisers has been a long, drawn out affair which dates back to the start of the ProTour in 2005, if not before.
According to the Colorado paper, LeMond went on to suggest other ways to combat doping, including keeping riders sequestered for two hours before races to eliminate unauthorised contact, increasing the number of randomly tested riders to 20, and lowering the hematocrit limit to 46 percent - the upper end of the range considered normal in medical tests. He also wants to see higher penalties for those caught cheating, but an additional consideration for those who would act as informants.
In LeMond's ideal situation, "There would be the ability to plea-bargain prison sentences, so when riders get busted they can rat out the system and come back to racing in much heavier testing." He went on to say that doping "needs to be criminalized because they are trafficking in illegal drugs. They are prescription drugs, but they are being illegally distributed throughout the peloton."
LeMond was also not afraid to take a thinly veiled shot at his fellow Tour winner Lance Armstrong, whose Discovery Channel team announced it would disband after ceasing its search for a new sponsor earlier this month. "I think we're fleshing out a lot of people who are leaving," he told the newspaper. "I think a lot of people are leaving not because they can't get sponsors, but because [investigators are] getting serious. The guys that have been getting away with it don't want to be caught."
Despite claiming that he was "the most optimistic I have been in years" about the state of the sport, he still holds some reservations about seeing youngsters starting their careers in professional cycling. LeMond's contemporary Davis Phinney has a son, Taylor, who just won a gold medal in the Junior World Championships, and LeMond has mixed feelings about his success. "He could be one of our most talented riders coming up," LeMond said.
"At first I thought, 'Oh, I'm so happy for him, and then I thought, 'Oh, I'm so sad for him.' Because I don't know if I was the parent, and my son would have won the worlds that I would allow him to pursue it on the professional level," LeMond continued. "I am optimistic that there is a change and it's shifting, and that maybe Taylor Phinney can have a chance like I did where you don't have to decide to either sell your soul to be part of a sport, or having your dignity and be proud of doing it on your own."