Benoit Joachim, who rode with Lance Armstrong from 1999 to 2005, has decried the American's lifetime ban and loss of results, describing him as a “great champion.” The Luxembourger also said there was no organized team doping programme at the United States Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams, with the decision to dope left up to the individual riders. He also said he regretted not working with Dr. Michele Ferrari.
“I think Armstrong was a great champion and will remain so,” Joaquim told the Luxembourg newspaper Le Quotidien in a long and often contradicting interview.
“I assume that there must be a winner for each competition. In those years, it was Armstrong. It was decided to leave the winner's spot empty, but there are a second and a third. Why, because there is a big doubt on them, too. So for me, it is Armstrong who is the champion,” he is reported as saying.
Joachim rode the Tour de France with Armstrong only twice. But pointed out: “I rode for nine years under the command of Johan Bruyneel, and I have not even been questioned by USADA investigators USADA. On this basis then, I doubt the seriousness of this investigation.”
He was also critical of the testimony provided by North American riders such as Levi Leipheimer, Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie, calling their evidence “neither true nor false.” These were riders “who enjoyed cycling and didn't have a lot of money compared to Armstrong. They gained particular notoriety. They spoke when they were nearing retirement.” They should have spoken out earlier, he said. “If they had something to say, why not have done it ten years ago?”
Joachim rejected the charges that there was organized doping at the teams. “I still have to say that this is not an organized doping because I had the opportunity to use them and I refused. It was not an obligation. Each athlete made his choice. When I meet with Ferrari and he offered me to work with him, I was able to say either yes or no. That is my own choice. Nobody forces your hand. Hamilton made a different choice.”
He decline to work with Dr Ferrari – a decision he now regrets.
“I had the opportunity to meet him. I could have work with him. Unfortunately, I did not do it for various reasons. The first was economic, the second related to my health, and the third was that I was afraid of getting a positive control.”
He describes that decision as “a great regret” knowing he could have boosted his career and his income.
Looking back at his former teammates who worked with the controversial Italian doctor Joachim said: “They had a longer career than mine, they remain healthy. Today, they are at the end of their careers, they admit to having doped but everyone has already forgiven them.”
Joachim tested postiive for Nandrolone in 2000, but the charges were dismissed by the Luxembourg national federation due to technical problems dealing with the B sample.
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