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Carmichael on Armstrong: ‘I’m convinced he was the best athlete’

Armstrong's long-time coach says he never saw the Texan use banned substances

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado (VN) — During the seven years that Lance Armstrong ruled the Tour de France, former USA Cycling coach Chris Carmichael built an empire based around his coaching relationship with Armstrong, whom he’d first met as a precocious teenager riding with the U.S. national team. On Friday, Carmichael said he’d never seen Armstrong use any banned substances.

With Armstrong as an investor, Carmichael formed Carmichael Training Systems in September 1999, which has since blossomed into perhaps the world’s largest endurance coaching company, helping pioneer online coaching tools, and more recently, working with professional sports teams such as the Philadelphia Flyers, Miami Heat and Colorado Rockies.

Throughout the early years, as CTS flourished, Armstrong and Carmichael shared a symbiotic relationship — Carmichael utilized Armstrong’s success as a marketing tool for his coaching services, while Armstrong profited from CTS’ growth.

And though Armstrong also worked with controversial Italian trainer Michele Ferrari during his seven-year Tour campaign, that fact was largely kept quiet. It was Carmichael, a former 7-Eleven pro and member of the 1984 Olympic road team that was publicly hailed as the mastermind behind the Texan’s training regimen, the man credited for switching Armstrong’s focus away from using his powerful anaerobic system to instead focus on high-cadence intervals that would boost Armstrong’s power output at lactate threshold.

Carmichael has since become a celebrity in his own right as the figurehead of his company, authoring several books training books — including those published by VeloPress, owned by VeloNews’ parent company, Competitor Group Inc.

When Armstrong conceded his fight with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Thursday night by relinquishing his right to an arbitration hearing, he knowingly accepted that he would be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles — titles that Carmichael contributed to as his personal coach.

In a sense, those seven Tour wins also belonged to Carmichael.

Asked for comment on USADA’s case against Armstrong, Johan Bruyneel and four members of the U.S. Postal Service team’s entourage, including Ferrari, Carmichael said he had been proud to work with Armstrong and was saddened by the news.

“At 18 years old I saw Lance take apart a world championship field in Japan that included the best East Germans and Soviets from the Eastern Bloc,” Carmichael told VeloNews. “He ended up 10th or 11th, but if he knew what he was doing he would have won. A year later, at a 10-day pro-am stage race in Italy, I saw him destroy some of the best amateurs and pros in cycling. Then, in 1993, he won the world road championship ahead of Miguel Indurain, at 21 years old.

“I’m convinced Lance won his Tour de France titles because he was the best athlete,” Carmichael continued. “I believe he was the best trained, the most focused, the most disciplined, and the most dedicated to excellence. I’m saddened by the news today, but I’m convinced he was the most talented and gifted athlete there was out there.”

Asked if he was surprised that USADA had compiled evidence of a doping conspiracy at U.S. Postal Service during the years that he had coached Armstrong, Carmichael hesitated.

“This is the only thing I’ll say about that,” he said. “In 20 years, I never saw him use any banned substances, and in my eyes, seeing is believing.”