When Lance Armstrong publicly admitted that he doped to during his career, it was a confession that vindicated what many people have said for the past 13 years. One of those people is three-time Tour champion Greg LeMond, now the only American to have actually won the race. But LeMond was not satisfied with tonight's interview, saying that Armstrong’s assertions that he needed to dope to win tarnishes all of cycling’s champions unfairly.
“Armstrong has destroyed anyone who has been successful in cycling,” LeMond told Cyclingnews. “I get pissed off when I hear that you can’t win the Tour without doping. Look at Andy Hampsten [winner of the 1988 Giro d’Italia, third in the 1989 Giro and fourth in the Tour in 1986 and 1992) – there was no way he was on any doping program.”
LeMond pointed to his own Tour victories, which he asserts were accomplished through his own freakish talent - talent he said was equally unbelievable to his competitors when he was coming up as a junior, but which was accomplished clean.
LeMond says that Armstrong could not have won the Tour de France clean because he was not the super-talented athlete which he made himself out to be. In fact, LeMond called Armstrong’s natural talent “average”, and said that his incredible increase in performance thanks to doping was so remarkable, it was difficult to believe it was only the result of EPO, testosterone and transfusions.
“If Armstrong had given Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton the same stuff he was taking, he would never have won – they would have beaten him.”
It is exactly these kinds of statements which earned LeMond the “number one spot on Armstrong’s most hated list”, LeMond said.
After watching the interview, he believes Armstrong feels no real remorse, but that the entire show was a carefully choreographed public relations stunt masterminded by the same Armstrong handlers who helped to ruin LeMond’s business and his position in the sport.
“I didn’t see the need for redemption, the remorse of someone who is truly sorry,” LeMond said. “I was impressed by Oprah [Winfrey]’s questions, it was the ideal way to see the real Armstrong. It shed a light on him and I think people could see he is not remorseful.”
LeMond still harbors fatigue from his long, costly legal battle against the Trek Bicycle Corporation which began after LeMond’s 2001 comments questioning Armstrong’s association with Dr. Michele Ferrari.
The USADA dossier supported LeMond's comments, revealing that Armstrong was paying Ferrari upwards of $1 million for what it contends was a sophisticated doping program. Armstrong refused to address the topic in the Oprah interview, and at least in part one, he has yet to give any direct, public apology to any of the individuals he has bullied, threatened and destroyed.
LeMond settled with Trek in 2010, exhausted from the ordeal and regretting what that one comment ended up costing him: millions of dollars, his rightful place in the sport and his ability to speak freely.
“It took me away from the sport for ten years – I couldn’t go near the Tour de France for fear I would be asked about Armstrong and doping. What could I say – ‘no comment’? I couldn’t sell my soul and switch topics to talk about my 1986 Tour. “
After Armstrong’s admissions, LeMond said that as brutal as Armstrong was in the past, he was ready to forgive him. “I believe everyone is entitled to a chance to be forgiven, but I’m not convinced.”
There is still much to be settled even after Armstrong's confession, and LeMond hopes that in the coming months and years, the people who enabled Armstrong to conduct his reign of terror during his reign as Tour champion will be held accountable.
"It was not just Armstrong, but the people behind him who helped mastermind this campaign against me, against anyone who spoke out."
Laura Weislo has been with Cyclingnews since 2006 after making a switch from a career in science. As Deputy Editor, she coordinates coverage for North American events and global news. A swimmer in her younger days, Laura made the change to cycling later in life, but was immediately swept up by a huge passion for the sport. Riding for fitness quickly gave way to the competitive urge, and a decade of racing later she can look back on a number of high profile races and say with confidence, "I started". While her racing days are over for the most part, she continues to dabble in cyclo-cross and competing against fellow pathletes on the greenways of Raleigh, North Carolina.
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