By Hedwig Kröner
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) invited triple Tour de France winner Greg LeMond to speak at its Executive Committee and Foundation Board meeting on Monday, November 20. French newspaper L'Equipe was present and asked the American further questions, compiled in its Tuesday edition which circulated today around France.
In his statements, LeMond did not hide his support for WADA, and had some harsh words for the anti-doping activities of the International Cycling Union (UCI). "I deeply respect WADA's work," he said. "I'm convinced that Dick Pound is on the right path; that he can pull cycling out of the dirt. I have come here to face those who are looking to discredit WADA. I have spoken about the corruption of the UCI, but not in the sense of Mafia - corruption also means that not enough in the fight [against doping] is done even though one is in possession of all the information to do it properly. I hope that one day the federations won't be in charge of the controls anymore, because there is an obvious conflict of interest."
Meanwhile, LeMond did not exclude that the UCI was about to change. "Pat McQuaid is not Hein Verbruggen. Their attitude in the Landis affair has been correct. They don't have a choice: they have to save cycling, their product, or else it's over," added the American, who also looked back on his own life as a pro cyclist, which ended in 1994. "I stopped my career feeling bitter. I was passed by cyclists who didn't feel their legs turn in the races, who left me far behind. At the time, I told Eric Boyer [the current manager of Cofidis, who has admitted openly to have doped - ed.] that it was time to stop, to leave this world which was ruled by EPO - which gives you a performance increase of 30 percent in my opinion.
"Since the Festina scandal, I speak out loud in public, even though it's a sensitive topic in the United States because of Lance Armstrong. I would like to see 14 year-olds dream about the Tour de France again as I have when I was a teenager, and to believe that it's possible to have a chance without taking drugs."
LeMond also spoke about personal integrity and the respect for one's own health and body. "I was also confronted with athletes who lost the sense of reality. All these cyclists who cheat have lost their way and the sense of reason: after 15 injections, they let themselves go. My teammates were mostly nice guys, but easy to influence. Some of them gave in and lost all conscience of their health."
So what did he think about Floyd Landis? "He called me for advice," LeMond replied. "I told him not to act as Tyler Hamilton did: deny, deny, deny. He's a good guy. I will keep to myself and respect what he told me, while waiting for the verdict of USADA. This guy's talented, I've known him for five, six years. Of course I have an opinion on this affair. If it turns out that he's guilty, he will really symbolise the tragedy of cycling. This guy had ethics, a good education. If he's positive, then there's not much hope for the others..."
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