Three-time world champion Oscar Freire has admitted that he never had any suspicions that Lance Armstrong might be doping. “Among fellow cyclists he didn’t seem to be a suspect [for doping]. We all passed the controls, just as he did, and he was the one who was winning,” said Freire in an interview on Spanish state radio.
The Spaniard, who retired at the end of the 2012 season, went on to say that “if he has doped then he’s guilty”, but condemned the timing of the action against Armstrong. “It’s something that shouldn’t have happened at this time. It’s clear that if there is real certainty about what happened then it should have been sorted out first. Coming back after five years to speak about something that happened in the past isn’t the best scenario for cycling,” he said, adding that, in terms of media coverage, the sport is currently “on its knees”.
According to Freire, a case like Armstrong’s could not happen at the moment because the situation is cycling is “better” because there are more controls and they are more effective than before.
Linked last week with a future role as Spanish national coach, Freire said that he hasn’t yet decided what the future holds for him and that he needs “a bit of a rest” before thinking more closely about his future. Although he still lives in Switzerland, Freire revealed he could see the impact the current economic crisis is having on his homeland during his regular trips back to Spain.
Asked if he had considered any kind of future for himself in politics, he responded: “I’ve known plenty of politicians. But to be a politician you’ve got to deal with a huge amount of focus. I would like to slip into the background a bit more now. I don’t want my life to be organized in that way. It’s not an option I’m considering at the moment.”
As he has done several times in the past, Freire criticized the lack of recognition for his achievements in his home nation. He revealed he still remembers with great affection the reception he received in his home town of Torrelavega when he won his first world title in 1999, but said he felt his countrymen had “frozen him out in recent years”.
Following on the same theme, Freire said that he would probably have won more races if he had spent more time competing for Spanish teams. During his 15 pro seasons, he only spent the first two with a Spanish squad – Vitalicio Seguros. Riding for foreign teams, he said, “had prevented me from winning more races. If I had ridden for a Spanish team and had achieved the same level, I also think that would have
helped me get more recognition, but I don’t think they ever appreciated me sufficiently in Spain.”
He concluded by admitting that one of the things he was most satisfied with about his career was being able to retire “when I wanted. That’s a really big thing for a cyclist.”
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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