Armstrong: "Our system was very simple, very conservative, and not evil"
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Friday, June 28, 2013

Armstrong: "Our system was very simple, very conservative, and not evil"

by VeloNation Press at 5:13 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Texan says that McQuaid, Verbruggen and the UCI have much to fear from a Truth and Reconcilliation process

Lance ArmstrongStill portraying himself as a victim of the system, Lance Armstrong has claimed that the actions of USADA have done nothing to clean up cycling but have simply affected one person; himself.

Although many riders have come forward and given evidence about doping and coordinators such as Michele Ferrari and Johan Bruyneel have been sidelined, Armstrong doesn’t look beyond himself when talking about the effects of the USADA investigation and actions.

“All this is just bullshit,” he said, when talking about the perception of the doping regime the US Postal Service team had. “The Puerto affair was one hundred times more sophisticated. Our system was very simple, very conservative, and not evil. History will show that all of this is a simple posture by USADA to make a buzz.

“The ‘reasoned decision’ of USADA has perfectly succeeded in destroying the life of one man, but it has not benefitted cycling at all.”

Armstrong’s quotes come as extracts from a bigger interview to be printed tomorrow by the Le Monde newspaper in France. In it, he portrays himself as a product rather than a leader of the system. Asked if in his era it was possible to compete successfully without doping, he said that it was impossible for Grand Tours.

“It depends on the races that you want to win. The Tour de France? No. Impossible to win without doping. That’s because the Tour is an endurance race, where oxygen is the determining factor,” he said. “To give just one example, EPO won’t help a sprinter to win a 100 metre [race], but it would be a determining factor for a 10,000 metre runner. It’s evident.”

While he didn’t name names, he suggests that the other riders of the era participated in similar regimes, and that as a result they haven't proposed themselves as the rightful winner. “You can take my name from the results but the Tour was held between 1999 and 2005, was it not? It is therefore necessary to have a winner,” he said. “Who is he? Noboby has put themselves forward to reclaim my jerseys.

“I did not invent doping - sorry Travis [Tygart, the head of the USADA]. And it did not stop with me. I just participated in this system.”

Armstrong’s portrayal of the US Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams’ doping programmes as more basic than that of Operacion Puerto may well be disputed by others. Tyler Hamilton, who was part of the US Postal Service team and who then began consulting Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes after he moved to the CSC team, has said that the system there was sloppy and dangerous, with Fuentes’ assistants mixing up blood bags, causing him to become very ill and likely leading to his positive test for transfusing with someone else’s blood.

In his book The Secret Race he suggests that Armstrong may have had recourse to additional products and methods, enabling the Texan to step up a level in time for the Tour de France.

That aside, what has been repeatedly claimed is that he was protected by others within in the system, and this ensured that he didn’t have to worry about being caught. The UCI has been alleged to have been part of this, although it denies entirely that it ever protected Armstrong or any other riders.

However the Texan himself appears to hint that it knew far more than it lets on. “Pat McQuaid can say and think what he likes, but he has no credit in the fight against doping. Things will simply not change if McQuaid remains in power,” said Armstrong.

“The UCI refuses to put a Truth and Reconcilliation commission in place because the evidence that the world would hear would condemn McQuaid, Verbruggen and the whole institution [of the UCI].”

When he returned to the sport, Armstrong was claimed by some to have been shielded by the then-French president Nicolas Sarkozy. Michel Rieu, the scientific advisor for the French anti-doping agency AFLD, claimed last August that Sarkozy pulled strings for the rider, who he regarded as a personal friend and from whom he later received a gift of a team bike.

“In October 2009, Armstrong was invited to lunch at the Elysée. Behind this visit, we know he wanted to get rid of the AFLD president Pierre Bordry, who resigned a year later.” Bordry, who had been vigorous in pursuing Armstrong, had been forced to stand down from his job due to government cuts to the AFLD budget.

Armstrong didn’t address these claims but was clear about his regard for the politician. “I really appreciate Sarko as a man. When I say this, it is not a political statement, it is only a personal opinion. Has always been cool with me.”

Rieu also made claims that Armstrong had people within the sport who would help him.

“This support overflowed into the UCI (International Cycling Union) and the International Olympic Committee,” he said. “Lance Armstrong was surrounded by scientific physiologists, some of whom were discarded later. He had considerable resources to protect and implement logistics.

“There were rumours that he transferred blood from the United States in his private jet.” He also stated that he believed the American was regularly tipped off about impending doping controls, enabling him to take action to ensure that he would not be snagged.

Whatever the collaboration from others, Armstrong tells Le Monde that he was not worried about positive tests. “I've never been afraid of doping controls. Our system was pretty basic and without risk,” he said. “I had much more fear of the customs and police.”

The previous era is currently being examined in France by the Senate Commission on Doping, which has already released information that has exposed Laurent Jalabert as one who tested positive for EPO in the 1998 Tour de France. It is reported that the list of all the riders who were positive in retrospective tests in the 1998 and 1999 races will be named next month; in 2005, Armstrong was already named as a rider whose retested samples showed the presence of the banned drug.

Jalabert continues to portray himself as innocent, suggesting team doctors had full control, but this is something that Armstrong has little time for. “Ah Jaja, with all due respect, he is lying,” he said, when asked about the former pro. “He would have done better to have avoided talking about Ferrari and the Citroen [meaning less effective doctors – ed.] because he knows very well that Michele [Ferrari] was the ONCE doctor in the middle of the 1990s.”

It had not been previously reported that Ferrari worked with the team, which dominated the sport and which was suspected of using banned substances to do so.

Manolo Saiz, the manager of the team, was ultimately derailed when he was implicated in Operacion Puerto. It caused him to lose control of his Liberty Seguros team in 2005, the squad which had evolved out of ONCE. Armstrong comments on that investigation, saying that he is sure that other sports were shielded and played a part in ensuring that they were not investigated.

“I'm sure some great football clubs have had an influence on this decision,” he said. “Anyway, it is still cycling, which was held to be solely responsible.”

Finally, Armstrong acknowledges that he made enemies within the sport, acting in a dictatorial way in his dealings with others. He said that he is trying to make amends, but concedes that it is a difficult task.

“I will never succeed to fix everything, but I will spend my life trying. I was too hard on people. Fighting them on the bike, that’s perfect. Fighting outside of that, it is not. I could not separate the two.”

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