Greg LeMond believes that without doping and on a truly level playing field, Lance Armstrong would have been capable only of a top-30 finish at the Tour de France at best.
In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper aired on Monday night, LeMond denounced Armstrong as a bully and a thug, and said that Armstrong should face jail for doping and corruption, which he believes constitute criminal as well as sporting infractions. LeMond is officially the only American to have won the Tour de France after Armstrong's seven victories were erased from the record books.
“I know his physical capabilities, he's a top-30 [Tour finisher] at best no matter what. If he's clean, everybody's clean, he's a top-30 at best. He's not capable of winning the Tour, he's not capable of the top five,” LeMond told CNN.
LeMond dismissed Armstrong’s claim in a televised interview with Oprah Winfrey earlier this year, in which he said that he doped simply to level the playing field, and accused him of collusion. “He couldn't race on a level playing field. That's why he bribed the governing body,” LeMond said.
Armstrong and his US Postal Service team were the subject of a federal investigation led by Jeff Novitzky that ended in February 2012, although much of the evidence amassed was later used by USADA in its sporting case against Armstrong and led to a life ban and the stripping of his seven Tour de France titles.
After describing Armstrong’s activities as “criminal,” LeMond was asked if he believed the Texan should be jailed.
“I do, yeah. There is a point where there are people who are just not good,” LeMond said “There are people who are criminals who just shouldn't be able to participate again in anything. It's like Bernie Madoff - should he be allowed to come in and be a part of Wall Street managing money? No, he shouldn't. And that's [the case] with Armstrong. He shouldn't be allowed to be back in sport.”
In the lengthy interview, LeMond also described his first meeting with Armstrong after winning the third of his Tours de France in 1990, and revealed that he had inadvertently offended the then 19-year-old.
“I met Lance in the wind tunnel in, I think, 1990. I had just won the Tour and was aware that some young riders might be nervous to meet me and I jokingly said that he looked like more of a football player than a cyclist. My wife said he didn't take it well,” LeMond said.
LeMond denounced Armstrong for using his recovery from cancer and his subsequent fundraising efforts as something of a screen with which to mask his doping programme.
“That was actually the thing that got me the most was that he manipulated the cancer community,” LeMond said. “It was like Teflon. He used the money, he used the foundation to not only cover for him but also destroy people.”
LeMond also revisited the 2001 incident in which Armstrong – under fire for his relationship with Dr. Michele Ferrari – threatened to unearth claims that LeMond had used EPO during his career.
“He did offer $300,000 to a teammate to say that I took EPO, and the guy refused. And this was a guy that could have used the money,” LeMond said, adding of Armstrong: “He's a bully, he's a thug to me and I'm the one that wouldn't put up with it.”
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