Armstrong: "You won't see me at the Tour anymore"

In an interview with Dutch publication Telegraaf, Lance Armstrong has affirmed that he does not intend to visit the Tour de France again. "I won't shake hands with hypocrites like Leblanc, Prudhomme and Clerc! No way!" the seven times Tour de France winner underlined. "In the start village? At the finish? Hell, no," he added.

Armstrong was offended last August when Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc said that he "felt betrayed" by Armstrong, soon after French newspaper L'Equipe published its 1999 doping allegations. In October, the organisers officially revealed the 2006 parcours in Paris, but Armstrong was hardly honoured during the presentation. "Sure I'll be in Europe for some races next year, and I'll visit the team in the hotels during the Tour, but you won't see me at the start or the finish," Armstrong commented.

Meanwhile, the Texan insisted that he holds no grudge against the French in general. "I have nothing against the French, I'm only criticising the Tour de France organisation," Armstrong said, and included the newspaper L'Equipe, which he accused of leading a witch-hunt against him. "L'Equipe writes only negative things about me, but that's because of the relationship between the paper and the Tour organisation. Their history is overshadowed by a seven-times Tour winner, and that puts their inheritance in danger."

Especially since the French public is still waiting for the next French Tour de France winner after Bernard Hinault, whose last victory goes back to 1985. "Hinault, who stands behind me, would have never encountered the same problems as I have, because he is French," Armstrong said. "Maybe if he'd won only a few years back, I'd have less problems, too, but the French haven't played the general classification in 20 years. By trying to damage me, they're hoping to rewrite their history, but they will never succeed."

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