Armstrong remarks on eve of race draw cyclists' ire

Published: Saturday, Jun. 29, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 7C
Last Modified: Sunday, Jun. 30, 2013 - 9:13 am

PORTO VECCHIO, Corsica – Lance Armstrong made himself the uninvited guest at the Tour de France on Friday, coming back to haunt the 100th edition of the race and infuriating riders past and present by talking in a newspaper interview about doping in the sport.

Armstrong told Le Monde he still considers himself the record-holder for Tour victories, even though his seven titles from 1999-2005 were stripped last year for doping.

He said his life has been ruined by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation that exposed as lies his years of denials that he and teammates doped. And he darkly suggested cycling's top administrators could be brought down by other skeletons in the sport's closet.

Armstrong's interview with Le Monde, a respected daily and France's newspaper of record, and his assertion that doping won't be eradicated from cycling dominated French airwaves ahead of the start of the race today, causing dismay and anger in a sport desperate to prove it has turned the page on his era of serial cheating.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme suggested Armstrong was milking the race's notoriety to further his agenda.

"This is a very big tournament," Prudhomme said. "Just look around: There are 2,300 accredited journalists here; there are cameras everywhere. So if someone wanted to transmit a message, this is the time, obviously, especially since everyone likes this kind of controversial statements."

Jean-Rene Bernaudeau, manager of the Europcar team, likened Armstrong to a robber who tells a bank how it should be run.

"I don't think it is nice that a guy who embodies a decade we should completely forget gives us lessons on how we should behave, while we were the ones who suffered during that time," he said. "This is unacceptable."

A union representing European professional riders at the 100th Tour said: "Enough is enough!"

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