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ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — No gifts — that was once Lance Armstrong’s line. But don’t expect any mercy, at least not when Greg LeMond is concerned, regarding the possibility of reduction to Armstrong’s lifetime racing ban.
Speaking with journalists Thursday as part of a visit to the Santos Tour Down Under, LeMond said Armstrong should never see a reduction in the lifetime racing ban handed down in 2012 as part of the USADA case against the Texan.
“If there’s anyone who deserves a ban, it’s this guy,” LeMond said. “What’s the point? So he can race an amateur race? It’s not like he tested positive once, and came back clean. This is repeated cover-ups and bribes. There was nothing like it in the history of cycling.”
It comes as no surprise that LeMond continues to harbor bad feelings toward Armstrong. The pair infamously locked horns during Armstrong’s Tour de France dominance, and despite Armstrong’s 2013 admission, LeMond said that’s not enough.
“I don’t think he’s shown any really remorse about what he’s done. That’s not just the doping, but what he’s done to people’s lives. He destroyed them,” LeMond said. “He took a good 10 years out of my life.”
Some, including Armstrong, have suggested that he shouldn’t serve as the primary scapegoat for the sins for an entire generation of riders that competed during the EPO era.
Armstrong, 43, was banned for life and stripped of all seven of his Tour victories as part of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s case against him.
Armstrong sat down with investigators as part of the Cycling Independent Reform Commission, the UCI’s effort to review the EPO era, and could possibly see a reduction if the UCI decides to offer clemency to those who cooperated.
LeMond, however, remains defiant, and said Armstrong doesn’t deserve any leniency.
“I don’t know any other cyclist who participated in that level of deception,” LeMond continued. “It’s unfortunate. It had to come out. I always argued it’s there, it’s simmering, it’s going to blow up. I never thought it would last that long, it’s shocking it did last that long. No one wanted to question it, because of the cancer; that was the Teflon he had. No other cyclist would have been able to race, because he was positive in 1999 [corticoids]. He should have never been able to race after that.”
LeMond was among the first who questioned the legitimacy of Armstrong’s Tour dominance. He drew Armstrong’s wrath in 2001, when he told David Walsh, “When I heard he was working with Michele Ferrari, I was devastated… 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, 53, said comments like those earned him Armstrong’s scorn, something that negatively impacted his business and personal life. It’s only over the past year or so that LeMond has begun to return to the public eye within the cycling community.
“That’s what was so hard. Cycling was my life. It was a major attempt to exclude me. Even at the Tour de France, I wasn’t welcomed. It was really hard when you had one guy really focused on eliminating you from your whole life,” LeMond said. “It was very stressful, really, the way he treated me, I don’t like being bullied and threatened, I didn’t want to lose everything. I only did four interviews in eight years.”
LeMond said there’s been no reconciliation between the two.
“I have not spoken to him. Since 2001, I haven’t had any relationship with him,” he said. “I am a person who does not hold a grudge, but I am also realistic on who I am dealing with. I’d be willing to talk to him — under certain circumstances.”
Reached for comment, Armstrong replied via text message: “Greg was an idol of mine growing up, as I have stated many times before. Somewhere along the way we got sideways — I think it was about 15 years ago. I haven’t spoken to him since then. I’m sure my results on the road and actions off the road were troublesome to him along the way, and for that I am sorry. But honestly, at this point, isn’t it better that we all move forward and stop the rhetoric, in order to build a better future for cycling? I’m in. Anyone else?”
Asked if that would qualify as Armstrong’s first apology to LeMond, he replied, “I tried two years ago. He wouldn’t take my call.”
Evans able to shine as sport cleaned up
LeMond also suggested that riders such as Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) were able to finally fulfill their potential as the peloton began to clean up its act. Evans switched from mountain-bike racing to the road in 2002, and after several top-10 finishes, he won the 2011 Tour, following stepped-up doping controls and the introduction of the biological passport in 2008.
“I think Evans came into cycling in a very difficult period. You saw that in the transition years, 2006, 2007, 2008, he rose to the top,” LeMond said. “When you take a certain group out, the real talent can rise to the top. I was fortunate to start when I did, and I didn’t have to face that. Cadel was lucky to end his career when it dramatically changed, and his results reflect that.
“That’s the tragedy of the dark period, as I call it, you don’t really know who had the talent,” LeMond continued. “Some guys who had the real talent could have been 10th, 20th, 30th – you just don’t know – that is what causes a lot of frustration, because you never really know who was really the top talent. It was not a level playing field with doping.”