Speaking to MARCA Radio during the Vuelta a España last week, the 1988 Tour winner said he counts Armstrong as the winner of the Tour from 1999-2005 despite the Texan’s name officially being struck from the winner’s record due to doping violations.
“Yes, I consider him the winner of those Tours,” Delgado said. “He did some very bad things, but he also did some good things as well, like his work with cancer. I believe, like he said, that his public image overwhelmed him, and that’s a shame. Even though people say that doping gives you wings, it only helps a little bit. He might not have won seven Tours, but he could have won five if he raced clean.”
The 60-year-old Delgado, who recently saw his already high public image nudge even higher following a stint on the popular celebrity cooking TV show “Master Chef,” shared his thoughts on Armstrong’s controversial legacy for professional cycling.
“For me, he was the best of his era. Armstrong had a very strong head,” Delgado said. “That was his motor. In terms of physical strength, maybe [Jan] Ullrich, who was his main rival, was even stronger, but his intelligence and his knowledge of how to prepare all year long were key for Armstrong to win such an important race like the Tour de France.”
“Armstrong did a lot of damage,” Delgado continued. “A lot of the bad image that cycling now has comes because of Armstrong. Yet a big part of cycling’s boom also came because of Armstrong. Cycling was very European, and there was a big international boost thanks to him. He brought in the North American market. When everyone realized he was a fraud, everyone who admired him as a sports figure and as a cyclist, they turned against him. The damage is still being felt by today’s pro cyclists. And at the sporting level, no one wants to talk about Armstrong in a good way for the damage he’s done to the sport.”