UCI president David Lappartient has said that he will not attend the 2018 Tour of Flanders following the organisation's decision to extend an invitation to Lance Armstrong to participate in a conference linked to the race.
Lappartient previously wrote to Flanders Classics asking them to rescind their invitation to Armstrong, who is scheduled to appear at the ‘Tour of Flanders Business Academy’ event on the Friday preceding the Ronde.
Armstrong will then be a guest of Tour of Flanders organiser Wouter Vandenhaut at the race on Sunday, although due to his life ban for doping, he will not travel in the race caravan and will instead watch at various points from the roadside.
"I can't confiscate the American’s passport and prevent him from coming to Belgium," Lappartient told Het Nieuwsblad. "I understand that he could be invited as a conference speaker, and he will obviously attract a lot of attention, but this is not the image that we want to send out from cycling. We want to promote a clean sport, and Armstrong is not the symbol of that."
Armstrong was handed a life ban for doping and stripped of his seven Tour de France victories in 2012 by the US Anti-Doping Agency after an investigation instigated by US federal agent Jeff Novitzky. The terms of Armstrong’s life ban prohibit him from taking part in or attending UCI-sanctioned events. Last year, the organisers of the Colorado Classic withdrew from an informal partnership with Armstrong’s new podcast venture.
"He's not authorised to be in a race car since he is suspended for life," Lappartient said. “I'm not happy with this situation and have made it known to Wouter Vandenhaute. I will not attend the Ronde. I'll go to one race or another in Belgium at the start of the season, but I don't know which one yet."
Since announcing the news in mid-December, Vandenhaut has repeatedly defended his decision to invite Armstrong to the Tour of Flanders, and insisted last week that the American will be in Flanders on the first weekend in April.
"Lance said that he didn't want to be a burden and allowed me to make other arrangements," Vandenhaut told Het Nieuwsblad. "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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