Lance Armstrong feels he is the scapegoat of a sport that has always been subject to cheating, the disgraced American cyclist said on Wednesday before criticising International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid.
Armstrong believes a truth and reconciliation programme is the “only way” to deal with cycling’s doping crisis and the sport’s governing body should have no role in the process.
Armstrong spoke to Cyclingnews in an interview published yesterday, his first since admitting to Oprah Winfrey two weeks ago that he doped to win the Tour de France seven times. In an e-mail interview with the British-based cycling publication, Armstrong expressed no remorse or contrition and said he feels like a scapegoat for a sport in which no generation was ever “clean”.
Armstrong said the best way forward is a truth and reconciliation process offering amnesty to riders and officials who come forward.
“It’s not the best way, it’s the only way,” he said. “As much as I’m the eye of the storm this is not about one man, one team, one director. This is about cycling and, to be frank, it’s about all endurance sports.
“Publicly lynching one man and his team will not solve this problem.” Asked if he felt like a fall guy, Armstrong said: “Actually, yes I do. But I understand why. We all make the beds we sleep in.”
In his interview with Winfrey, Armstrong said he would be willing to take part in any truth and reconciliation process.
He told Cyclingnews the programme should be run by the World Anti-Doping Agency and not the US Anti-Doping Agency, the body which produced a scathing report detailing systematic doping by Armstrong and his teams. The USADA report led to Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour titles and banned from elite sport for life.
Asked why he would not speak to USADA, Armstrong said: “No brainer. This is a global sport, not an American one.” He also insisted that international cycling body UCI and its president, McQuaid, should not be involved. “The UCI has no place at the table,” Armstrong said.
He called McQuaid “pathetic” and said he was only interested in protecting himself. “When I was on speaking terms with ol’ Pat McQuaid many, many months ago I said: ‘Pat, you better think bold here. A full-blown, global, TRC is our sport’s best solution,”’ Armstrong said. “He wanted to hear nothing of it.”
The UCI and WADA have been engaged in a war of words over how to deal with the fallout from the Armstrong scandal. WADA called the UCI “deceitful” on Tuesday for shutting down its independent doping panel and said it won’t participate in an amnesty commission set up by the cycling body.
The UCI independent panel had been set up to look into claims in the USADA report that cycling leaders helped cover up Armstrong’s suspicious doping tests and improperly accepted $125,000 in donations from him.
In the Cyclingnews interview, Armstrong said a truth and reconciliation commission should provide a complete amnesty. “Of course, otherwise no-one will show up,” he said. “No one.”
Asked if he would hope to get his life ban reduced if he testified to WADA, Armstrong said that was irrelevant. “What is relevant is that everyone is treated equally and fairly,” he said. “We all made the mess, let’s all fix the mess, and let’s all be punished equally.”
Armstrong was asked about USADA chief executive Travis Tygart’s statements that the rider was only hoping to restore his eligibility.
“That was Travis’s stunt to make me look self-serving,” Armstrong said, reiterating his claim that it was unfair that riders who testified against him received reduced sanctions while he was given a life ban.
“Letting some race the season, then giving minor off-season sanctions versus the death penalty isn’t fair and isn’t about ‘cleaning up cycling’,” he said. “It’s about getting your man.”
Asked when he realised that doping was rife in cycling, Armstrong said his generation was no different than any others.
“The ‘help’ has evolved over the years but the fact remains that our sport is damn hard, the Tour was invented as a stunt, and very tough [riders] have competed for a century and all looked for advantages, from hopping on trains 100 years ago to EPO now,” he said.
“No generation was exempt or ‘clean’. Not Merckx’s, not Hinault’s, not LeMond’s, not Coppi’s, not Gimondi’s, not Indurain’s, not Anquetil’s, not Bartali’s, and not mine.”