On the eve of the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong was once again a topic of conversation even though he hasn’t ridden in the race for years.
In an interview with Le Monde, the French newspaper, Armstrong, a seven-time champion who was stripped of his titles and banned from the sport because of his admitted doping, said winning an endurance race during his era would have been impossible without drugs.
“That depends on which races you wanted to win. The Tour de France? No. Impossible to win without doping,” he said (via the Associated Press). “Because the Tour is a test of endurance where oxygen is decisive. To take one example, EPO [erythropoetin] will not help a sprinter to win a 100 [meter race], but it will be decisive for a 10,000-meter runner. It’s obvious.”
The quote created a stir because several outlets reported that he was referring to present-day cyclists. He clarified on Twitter that he was speaking about the years 1999-2005.
“Today? I have no idea I’m hopeful it’s possible [that there’s no more doping,” Armstrong tweeted.
Pat McQuaid, head of the UCI, said in a statement before Armstrong’s clarification:
“It is very sad that Lance Armstrong has decided to make this statement on the eve of the Tour de France,” McQuaid said in a statement. “However, I can tell him categorically that he is wrong. His comments do absolutely nothing to help cycling. The culture within cycling has changed since the Armstrong era and it is now possible to race and win clean … Cycling today has the most sophisticated anti-doping infrastructure in sport. Measures such as the introduction of the blood passport, the whereabouts system and the ‘no-needle’ policy are the backbone of our relentless fight against doping. Armstrong’s views and opinions are shaped by his own behavior and time in the peloton. Cycling has now moved on.”
The Tour de France, which ends July 21, will try to do just that.