Christophe Bassons has said that he was not surprised by the nature of Lance Armstrong’s limited confession to doping in his televised interview with Oprah Winfrey on Thursday evening.
Bassons was one of the first high-profile victims of Armstrong’s bullying at the Tour de France. In 1999, after writing a column for Le Parisien newspaper questioning performances at the race, Bassons was pressured by Armstrong to quit the Tour. The Frenchman abandoned the race shortly afterwards, and retired from cycling two years later, at the age of 27.
“He acted like I thought he would act,” Bassons said of Armstrong’s interview on RMC. “He’s someone who is cold and hard. He’s not going to cry in front of anyone or in front of the cameras.”
Bassons said that Armstrong’s admission of doping was as he had anticipated – “it’s a bit like the protocol at Festina in its time” – but he was surprised that Armstrong had elected not to implicate others directly during the interview.
“I am surprised that it didn’t give any names. Is he is holding them back for prosecutors or will he go further in the second half of the interview?” said Bassons, who believes the partial confession was planned with his future in mind.
“I think that he has political ambitions. He is holding onto the image that he wants to give out as someone very courageous and very hard. He will continue to adopt that position.”
Reaction to Armstrong’s limited confession was muted among French observers on Friday morning. Pierre Bordry, the former president of the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD), described the information Armstrong had provided as “insufficient.”
“To carry out blood transfusions, to access EPO, you need advisers, suppliers and perhaps ever protectors,” Bordry told RMC. “I think that we need to know all of that. The anti-doping agencies need to be clearly informed. He needs to go a little bit further.”
French national coach Laurent Jalabert, who had described Armstrong as “an immense champion” as recently as October and who raced in the same era as Armstrong, also felt that the Winfrey interview constituted an incomplete confession.
“We don’t know the details of the rumours we’ve heard, if he was protected or if he was really tested like all the other competitors were,” Jalabert told RTL. “He could have gone further but I think that when Armstrong does something, it’s always very calculated.”
Cyril Guimard, former manager of Bernard Hinault, Laurent Fignon and Greg Lemond was equally unmoved by the Armstrong interview.
“We didn’t learn anything,” he told RMC. “It conformed to what we were expecting, a Lance Armstrong show to admit that he had doped, something we already knew. What we need to know is who was involved in this doping system.”