LONDON (AFP) — World cycling chief Brian Cookson on Tuesday blasted drug cheat Lance Armstrong’s plans to ride this year’s Tour de France route for charity, branding them “completely disrespectful.”
Armstrong, stripped of his seven Tour titles for doping offenses, has signed up to take part in the event, organized by former England football player Geoff Thomas.
The fundraising mission will see cyclists ride the route of the Tour one day ahead of the peloton, but UCI President Cookson wants Armstrong to reconsider.
“I’m sure that Geoff Thomas means well, but frankly, I think that’s completely inappropriate and disrespectful to the Tour, disrespectful to the current riders, and disrespectful to the UCI and the anti-doping community,” Cookson told the Sport Industry Breakfast Club in London.
“I think Lance would be well-advised not to take part in that.”
Armstrong was banned for life from competing in cycling and triathlon by the United States Anti-Doping Agency in August 2012 and Cookson said the Texan’s charitable motives did not make his stunt more palatable.
“I’ve heard that reason rolled out throughout Lance A’s career as well,” Cookson added.
“I’m not critical of people trying to raise funds for charity, let’s be clear. But I think maybe Lance could find a better way of continuing his fundraising efforts than this.
“Lance Armstrong can ride his bike around France as often as he likes. It’s got nothing to do with me or the UCI.”
Asked if he would not be supporting Armstrong’s mission in France, Cookson replied: “I think you can make that assumption.”
Thomas, the event organizer, acknowledged Cookson’s reservations, but said that his fellow cancer survivor Armstrong still had a role to play as a fundraiser.
In a statement released via Twitter, the former Crystal Palace soccer team midfielder wrote, “I understand some people will find it hard to accept Armstrong’s support, but my take is a simple one.
“If Armstrong’s involvement in “Le Tour — One Day Ahead” and my goal to raise £1 million ($1.48 million) for blood cancer can help save one more life then surely that can only be a good thing.”
Thomas added that Armstrong’s exact role in the event was still to be defined and would likely involve him riding in only “a couple of stages” as well as hosting a training camp.