Walsh on LeMond: Enduring the vengeance of Armstrong
In an interview with Global Cycling Network (GCN), Irish journalist David Walsh said that American Tour de France champion Greg LeMond had been “vilified” by Lance Armstrong for years for speaking out against Armstrong’s involvement with Italian doping doctor Michele Ferrari.
It was a public stance that ultimately cost LeMond his bicycle business, and pitted him against a legion of Armstrong supporters, many of whom painted the three-time Tour winner as bitter, or jealous.
“[LeMond] said, ‘If Lance’s story is true, it’s the greatest comeback in the history of sport, if it’s not, it’s the greatest fraud,’ and of course that was just raising the question that it might be a fraud,” Walsh told GCN’s Daniel Lloyd. “Armstrong, of course, went insane with anger, and Greg then was vilified by Armstrong, [he] was put under unbelievable pressure.”
Armstrong’s influence led to his bike sponsor, Trek, dropping its support of the LeMond brand it had licensed for 13 years from the three-time Tour winner.
In 2008, Trek president John Burke told the trade magazine Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, “Had all the stars aligned with Lance and Greg, if [LeMond] had kept a positive relationship, [the LeMond brand] would have ended up a $30 [million] to $35 million brand.”
Instead, it wound up a memory.
“Armstrong could exercise unbelievable influence if he wanted to — to damage your business interests, or destroy your character,” Walsh said. “He was a formidable and very dangerous enemy, Lance, and he didn’t mind using his power to destroy other people.”
A decorated writer for The Sunday Times, and the author of “L.A. Confidentiel” and “From Lance to Landis,” Walsh recently published a third book, “Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong,” following Armstrong’s downfall at the hands of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency; it will be available in the U.S. later this month.
In the first installment of his interview with GCN’s Daniel Lloyd, Walsh said that Armstrong’s critical mistake was underestimating former teammate Floyd Landis.
In the second installment, Walsh spoke at length about Armstrong’s years of deception, and whether or not he might ever give a tell-all interview with the likes of Oprah Winfrey.
In the third installment, released Thursday, Walsh told Lloyd that Armstrong, “seized the opportunity of doping to make himself the most successful cyclist in the history of the Tour de France.”
In the fourth installment, released Friday, Walsh discussed the heroes behind the Armstrong revelations — Betsy Andreu, Emma O’Reilly and Stephen Swart.
Walsh and LeMond both attended the Change Cycling Now summit in London in December, where LeMond said he could serve as interim UCI president in an effort to pressure Pat McQuaid to leave his post.
Walsh told GCN that he doesn’t believe LeMond is suited to serve as UCI president long-term.
“I think he could do it on an interim basis, but I don’t think Greg is the kind of personality character to be president of the UCI,” Walsh said. “I think that would tie him down in a way he wouldn’t enjoy being tied down.
“Greg does lots of things, he has lots of different interests, and he definitely wants to help cycling, and that’s why he said he’d be prepared to put himself forward on an interim basis.
“But cycling needs somebody who would be able to devote a huge amount of time to creating a new form of leadership, and I’m not sure who it will be. What we are sure about, what everybody is sure about, is that cycling needs new leadership, it needs people that can do the job and be credible.”