Liggett now accepts Armstrong cheated, says he is ‘still a great athlete’
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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Liggett now accepts Armstrong cheated, says he is ‘still a great athlete’

by VeloNation Press at 9:16 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
“There will be a lot of people wanting a slice of his bank account”

Phil LiggettCycling commentator Phil Liggett has long defended Lance Armstrong in the media, casting doubt on doping allegations in recent years and describing USADA last August as being a ‘nefarious local drug agency.’

He also suggested then that the agency’s witnesses may have deliberately lied, that some of them had possibly been paid for their testimony, and that he had been told that ‘agents from a particular agency’ had offered large sums of money to someone who worked with the Texan to say he took EPO.

Having long questioned whether there was any real proof that Armstrong had doped, he is now faced with the incontestable fact that the US Postal Service leader has admitted to a career-long deception.

Liggett now admits that he feels cheated, yet states the former pro remains a great athlete.

“I can't deny the pleasure he has brought many people including me and my commentary team from what we have seen from him in the past,” he told Melbourne's Radio Sport National. “He is still a great athlete. The drugs he has taken were to beat the very, very best at the very top and you could argue that those athletics he beat, many of them have already served time for taking drugs as well,” he said. “You can say he joined the crowd and did what he had to do to get the job done. That's how an American thinks.

“But at the end of the day he has cheated his way through and he has taken a lot of people into his confidence and he has really let them down quite badly.”

Liggett championed Armstrong long after doubts arose, and indeed attracted criticism from some in the sport when he slated USADA during the investigation and continued to say he believed the Texan is clean. He is now in in the position of having been proven wrong by the very person he defended.

“Obviously you feel made a fool of and hindsight is a wonderful thing,” he said. “You call a guy winning seven Tours de France in the best possible terms, saluting him for what he appears to be – a great athlete at the highest level doing the impossible. Then you feel robbed when you have built him into a superstar and now (it's revealed) he has cheated his way.

“So yes, it’s very difficult in that respect. But on the other hand, there is no hate in my heart. I have also seen him introduce tens of thousands of normal people to riding the bike for sheer pleasure or to try to aim to become professional cyclists. They won’t go away, they will continue to enjoy their hobby or their pastime, whatever the case may be.”

Although there is little doubt in most people’s minds that Armstrong doped at least from the mid-nineties onwards, Liggett seems to imply that he believes that at least some of his seven Tour victories may have been legitimate. Asked if Armstrong won any of his Tours clean, he suggested he might have.

“Well, USADA said had he appealed and come clean, they would only have accused him of taking drugs to win two of those Tours,” he said. [Editor’s note: USADA actually said that full cooperation from Armstrong would have enabled the statute of limitations to come into effect, thus preventing the agency from taking the remaining five titles]. The amazing thing is that these guys who take the drugs come back and carry on winning. Take Alberto Contador, for example. He came straight back from a drug ban and won the Tour of Spain.

“It seems to me these guys are raw talents. They seem to take the drugs as an insurance to make sure they win the event, because the talent is still there to win the event.”

Liggett wants the sport to move on and for people to put suspicion out of their minds. “It is a bygone era, we have got to be honest. The sport of cycling has advanced in the last three years. I believe the last two winners of the Tour de France, Bradley Wiggins, Cadel Evans were totally clean and a new era has been born.

In a separate interview with The Advertiser, he has said that Armstrong’s admission of doping to Oprah could help the sport move on. “Assuming he has confessed, then I hope he could tell the absolute truth and was able to make peace with himself,” he said.

“If he's done that then the sport can move forward without him.”

However he said that Armstrong needed to provide full details of how he was able to get away with his doping. “And obviously it would open a can of worms and there will be a lot of people wanting a slice of his bank account,” he stated.


The Radio Sport National interview can be heard here:

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