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 angering riders and officials by talking at length in a newspaper interview about doping in the sport.
Armstrong, 41, told Le Monde he still considers himself the record-holder for Tour victories, even though all seven of his titles from 1999 to 2005 were stripped from him 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 he and teammates doped. He also took another swipe at cycling’s top administrators, darkly suggesting they could be brought down by other skeletons in the sport’s closet.
In answering questions from Le Monde, Armstrong ensured his views on doping at the Tour would have maximum impact in France. The interview and Armstrong’s assertion doping won’t be eradicated from cycling dominated French airwaves ahead of the race start Saturday, causing dismay in a sport desperate to prove that it has turned the page on his era of serial cheating.
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Tour director Christian Prudhomme suggested Armstrong was milking the race’s notoriety to further his own agenda.
Jean-Rene Bernaudeau, manager of the Europcar team, likened Armstrong to a robber who tells a bank how it should be run.
In a statement issued in the name of competitors at the 100th Tour, a union representing European professional riders said: “Enough is enough!”
“It is disgraceful to be systematically dragged through the mud and be denigrated by people aiming to make money off our backs or seeking notoriety,” said the French wing of the union, the CPA.
Pat McQuaid, president of cycling’s governing body, UCI, called the timing of Armstrong’s interview “very sad,” adding, “It is now possible to race and win clean.”