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PARIS (AFP) — Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond is prepared to challenge for the top job in world cycling as the sport battles to recover from the Lance Armstrong doping scandal, he said in an interview published on Monday.
Asked by the French newspaper Le Monde whether he was prepared to run for president of the UCI against incumbent Pat McQuaid, the 51-year-old said: “Yes, I’m ready. I’ve been asked and I accept… It’s now or never. After the shock of the Armstrong affair, there won’t be another chance. If we want to regain the confidence of the public and sponsors, we’ve got to act fast and be tough. If we don’t, cycling will die.”
LeMond, who won the Tour de France in 1986, 1989 and 1990, is now the only American rider to have won cycling’s most famous race after the UCI stripped Armstrong of his record seven Tour wins and career record to 1998 for doping.
He has since become a figurehead of the Change Cycling Now campaign, which calls for a more robust drive to root out drug cheats from the sport.
LeMond admitted that he might not be the best candidate to replace McQuaid, who has been under pressure to explain how Armstrong managed to avoid detection for so long, amid allegations that the UCI accepted cash to cover up a positive test. But he said he was prepared to work hard to make the UCI “more democratic, more transparent and find the best candidate in the long term to lead” the organization.
That candidate needed to be someone “beyond reproach in ethical terms, who has real on-the-ground experience of the fight against doping and corruption”, he added, suggesting former World Anti-Doping Agency head Dick Pound fit the bill.
The UCI has set up an independent commission to look into the Armstrong case with the aim of getting cycling back on track. Hearings are scheduled to take place next April.
LeMond said he found it “curious” that McQuaid and his predecessor Hein Verbruggen waited until the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report into Armstrong before setting up an inquiry and did not act after previous doping scandals.
But he said nothing had changed and the UCI leadership was now “discredited.”
On Armstrong himself, he told the newspaper that he hoped his comptratriot would admit doping one day.
“Armstrong has done a lot of harm to cycling. For me, personally, it’s been a nightmare for years,” according to the interview on lemonde.fr. “But today, he can also do a lot of good for cycling if he recognizes his faults and if he denounces those who covered up for him.”
McQuaid is expected to run for reelection in 2013. The 42-member UCI Congress will elect the federation’s next president at the 2013 road world championships in Florence, Italy.