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Eddy Merckx with Prince Albert of Monaco
Belgian says Armstrong had denied doping in private conversations
Eddy Merckx has said that Lance Armstrong had always denied doping when he had raised the matter with him and the Belgian expressed his disappointment following Armstrong’s confession to doping in an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Thursday evening.
“Since the USADA report, I could well imagine that things would turn out badly for him. My disappointment was already enormous at the time and it’s even more so now,” Merckx told Le Soir. “He has admitted and that’s hard to hear. I was quite close to him: he often looked me right in the eyes when we discussed doping, and of course it was a big ‘no'."
Merckx reserved particular anger for Armstrong’s comment that it would have been impossible to win the Tour de France without doping, opining that it cast a pall over Armstrong’s contemporaries and Tour winners over the past 110 years.
“It’s a scandal for the other riders, the other winners, to affirm that. It’s so easy and hypocritical,” Merckx said. “The Armstrong era was hard for cycling, it came after the Festina Affair, there was EPO etc. but that’s no reason to say that you can’t win the Tour without doping.
“I just hope that the current crop of riders will not be too disillusioned by this news because it’s they who have seen their jobs put under permanent suspicion. It’s not simple but it’s them I’m thinking of first.”
While Armstrong offered a limited confession to doping, he shed little light on the doping programme in place at his US Postal team. He did, however, allude to the role of Dr. Michele Ferrari, even though he insisted that the Italian was a “good man.” In 2004, Ferrari said that he had been introduced to Armstrong by Merckx himself in late 1995.