The organisers of the Tour of Flanders have declined rescind their invitation to Lance Armstrong to appear at the race this year. According to Het Nieuwsblad, race promoter Wouter Vandenhaut says the disgraced American will not have an official function in the event, and will not follow the race itself.
Vandenhaut confirmed that UCI President David Lappartient asked him about the plan to include Armstrong in the festivities, but did not pressure him to withdraw the invitation.
"I first informed David Lappartient about my plan to invite Armstrong at an informal meeting in Montreux in early December," Vandenhaut said to Het Nieuwsblad. "I knew it was not obligatory, but given my constructive attitude with the UCI, it was logical to inform them immediately. David then listened to my story. Two weeks later he sent a letter with a number of questions in a friendly tone. I replied politely."
Vandenhaut says that the UCI president reminded him of the rules regarding the participation of banned athletes in UCI-sanctioned events. Armstrong was banned for life by the US Anti-Doping Agency and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles before he finally admitted to having doped to claim those victories.
Under the ban, Armstrong has been prevented from having even informal partnerships with races like the Colorado Classic, at which he was due to present his podcast until the organisers rescinded their invitation last year.
The Tour of Flanders organisation intends to respect the rules, Vandenhaut said. Armstrong has been invited to address the Tour of Flanders Business Academy on Friday, but will not participate in the Tour of Flanders cyclosportif on Saturday. On Sunday he will follow the race as a guest, but not in an official capacity.
"I want to Armstrong's visit the right weight," Vandenhaut said. "He is not the guest of honour, and will not have an official role. He will not be part of the caravan or follow the race between the start and finish."
Instead, Armstrong will be a guest of Vandenhaut's, following outside the envelope of the race and stopping at various points along the course.
Vandenhaut said that Armstrong was surprised by the commotion when he spoke to him on Wednesday. "Lance said that he didn't want to be a burden and allowed me to make other arrangements. I did not want to go into that. He is the keynote speaker on Friday. I would find it rude and inhospitable not to invite him to the Ronde on Sunday."
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