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"He was obliged to win"
Paolo Savoldelli has speculated that being the “incarnation of the American Dream” had put enormous pressures on Lance Armstrong and contributed to his decision to dope his way to victory at seven consecutive Tours de France.
Savoldelli, who won the Giro d’Italia while riding for Armstrong’s Discovery Channel team in 2005, insisted that doping alone had not been the sole reason behind Armstrong’s since rescinded successes.
“I’m not at all convinced that he won seven Tours only by doping himself,” Savoldelli said, according to the Ansa news agency. “What ruined Lance was the fact that he was the incarnation of the American Dream.”
Savoldelli raced alongside Armstrong in 2005, the Texan’s final season before his first retirement. He said he was struck by the magnitude and status of the entourage that had built up around Armstrong as he prepared for his seventh consecutive Tour win.
“He had an enormous country like the United States behind him, he even participated in George W. Bush’s electoral campaign,” Savoldelli said. “He had a lot of sponsors behind him. He was the American idol and the fact that he had succeeded in beating even cancer had made him even more of a personality. He was obliged to win, and many times I asked myself how he was able to live with so much pressure on him.”
Savoldelli has previously criticised both the federal investigation into doping at Armstrong’s US Postal Service team and the US Anti-Doping Agency’s decision to strip Armstrong of his seven Tour titles. Armstrong offered a belated confession to doping during an interview with Oprah Winfrey, televised on Thursday and Friday night, but continued to claim that he had not doped during his ill-starred comeback to cycling in 2009.
“Lance has made a mistake and he will pay,” Savoldelli said. “But his biggest mistake was to come back riding.”
Meanwhile, Armstrong’s former Motorola teammate Andrea Peron claimed that the American was clean when they rode together in 1995 and 1996. “That team wasn’t US Postal, the change happened there,” Peron insisted, a contention which jars with the fact that Armstrong has admitted to doping before his diagnosis with cancer in 1996.
“The guy I knew was a phenomenon who didn’t need to dope,” Peron continued. “Without [doping] maybe he wouldn’t have won seven Tours, but two or three certainly.”