Armstrong: “It was impossible to win Tour de France without doping”

“It was impossible to win the Tour de France in my time without doping,” Lance Armstrong told French newspaper Le Monde in an interview which will be published in its entirety tomorrow. Excerpts have been sent to the media but Cyclingnews had the opportunity to read the full interview with the seven-time Tour de France winner who was stripped of all his titles.

Armstrong still considers himself to be the winner of those seven consecutive Tours  from 1999 to 2005. After the USADA Reasoned Decision  came out in 2012 the UCI stripped all of Armstrong’s victories from 1998 on, leaving seven editions of the biggest cycling race in the world without a winner. “It’s okay to erase my name but these Tours need a winner. I’ll leave the discussion as to who won to others but nobody has reported to me to claim those yellow jerseys.”

Armstrong calls the conclusion in the USADA report that the US Postal system was the most sophisticated doping system ever “bullshit”. The Texan says the system Spanish gynaecologist Eufemiano Fuentes implemented was 100 times more sophisticated. “Our system was very simple, very conservative and not as harmful as USADA claims.”

After a lengthy court case concerning Operación Puerto, the Spanish judge decided to have the blood bags which were retrieved from the lab of Dr Fuentes destroyed. “I am sure several football clubs influenced that decision. In any case, it’s still only cycling that serves as a scapegoat.”

Whether Armstrong considers himself to be a scapegoat, remains open. “I’ll let others decide that. My feeling are my personal feelings. I just live my life, with my family. I still ride my bike, play some golf and at five o’clock I open a cold beer.”

After the USADA report came out, UCI president Pat McQuaid said “Armstrong has no place in cycling.”

“I think McQuaid wanted to make a political statement to show he is a hardliner but obviously he had no credit in this matter. He can say and think what he likes. I think he has far bigger problems to attend to.”

Looking to the upcoming UCI president election, he said, “I believe that the nomination of Brian Cookson offers a refreshing alternative. We’ll see. Cycling needs new leadership to regain trust and credibilty. Things simply can’t change if McQuaid stays and I told him that.”

In his January interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong said he was willing to talk with a Truth and Reconciliation Committee. He still is. “Not everything has been told,” he says. “The USADA report has proved capable of destroying the life of one man but has done nothing for cycling.”

However, he claimed that the UCI is evasive about such a committee. “McQuaid tries to avoid the issue because when a committee like that is installed, he, Verbruggen and the entire UCI will fall.”

In recent weeks, 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich confessed to having been a Fuentes client. “I was suprised Jan confessed, especially now. I loved him as an adversary on the bike and I appreciate his confession. I do not expect anything from the others because the normal procedure is to just say nothing.”

Laurent Jalabert, one of the other adversaries from Armstrong’s era, denied claims that he had a positive doping test in 1998. “I respect Jalabert but he is just lying at the moment. He knows very well that Michele Ferrari was ONCE’s team doctor in the nineties.”

During his reign in the Tour de France Armstrong was known for his battles on and off the bike. He attacked many people who accused him of doping, like Christophe Bassons and Frankie Andreu. “It was okay to fight on the bike but it was not okay to do so off the bike. I couldn’t seperate those two things at the time. When it comes to Bassons, I told him that if he felt so unhappy, why didn’t he just leave. That was misinterpreted at the time.”

Like former rivals including Ullrich and Michael Boogerd, Armstrong says doping was a sign of the times. “I didn’t invent doping, sorry Travis (referring to Travis Tygart, USADA’s president) and it didn’t stop when I went away. It has always been around, and always will. It isn’t a popular thing to say but it’s reality. I understand that people are disappointed in me. I will never succeed in fully making amends but will keep trying to do so during my life.”

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