By VeloNews Interactive wire services, copyright AFP2001
Lance Armstrong, fresh off his third consecutive Tour de France triumph and beginning a U.S. tour in New York said Thursday he was disappointed by critical comments from past Tour king Greg LeMond.
“It was disappointing,” Armstrong said. “I want to talk to Greg about it.”
LeMond told Sports Illustrated and the Sunday Times of London that he was “deeply saddened to hear about Lance’s relationship with Dr. Michele Ferrari.”
Ferrari is awaiting trial in Italy on charges of providing several athletes with performance-enhancing drugs, including EPO, a banned substance that boosts red blood cells.
Armstrong has reportedly made at least five visits to Ferrari since March of 1999. Armstrong spoke of the relationship for the first time in an article in Italy’s La Gazetta Dello Sport on the eve the 2001 Tour de France and just before the publication of a Sunday Times article detailing the extent of the American’s relationship with the Italian doctor. LeMond said the news devastated him and referred to Ferrari as “a cancer in sports.” “When Lance won the prologue to the 1999 Tour, I was close to tears. He had come back from cancer, in the middle of my career I had to come back from being accidentally shot [while on a hunting trip in 1987] – it felt like we had a lot in common,” LeMond told the Times.
“But when I heard he was working with Michele Ferrari, I was devastated. One American journalist wrote that the only reason you visit Ferrari is to tell him to get the hell out of your sport. I agree with that. In the light of Lance’s relationship with Ferrari, I just don’t want to comment on this year’s Tour, he continued. “In a general sense, if Lance is clean, it is the greatest comeback in the history of sport. If he isn’t, it would be the greatest fraud.” LeMond also cast doubt on the honesty of Armstrong’s achievement; despite the fact his fellow American has never failed a doping test.
“I would have all the praise in the world for Lance if I thought he was clean,” LeMond said. “But until Dr. Ferrari’s trial, we can’t know for sure.”
LeMond, the only other American to win the Tour de France, also did so three times.