Former Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc has questioned Lance Armstrong’s motives for returning to race riding next year.
Leblanc, Tour director for all of Armstrong’s seven titles, says in the editorial in the Velo Star review that the Texan took everyone by surprise by announcing his intention to bid for an eighth Tour de France in 2009.
“It seems that you want to collect funds for your foundation into cancer research. That’s a laudable intention of course but was it necessary to get out your jersey and racing shorts given the revenue your conferences make in the United States?” he asks.
“They’re also saying you haven’t been overly impressed with the victories of your former rivals — (Oscar) Pereiro, (Alberto) Contador and (Carlos) Sastre — and that at 37 the challenge doesn’t seem insurmountable; and that is something we can understand.
“But Lance, let’s suppose that you’ll still be competitive in 2009 — and that’s a strong possibility — there is all the same a small problem which is bothering us.
“It’s the side effects that your return will inevitably have on cycling’s image.
“Us former riders generally have respect for winners, but that’s not always the case with the public and above all the media who have heavy suspicions about you.
“The hounds will be let loose, column inches will be written, images repeated, and debate sparked about the one word which has petrified our passion over the past ten years: doping.”
LeBlanc refers there to the persistent allegations of doping that have dogged Armstrong’s career, his most vociferous detractor being France’s sports daily L’Equipe, a paper owned by the Tour’s parent company, ASO.