Greg LeMond "optimistic" about cycling in the post-Lance Armstrong era

"I was threatened with a $20 million lawsuit," says three-time Tour de France winner...

After the downfall of Lance Armstrong, three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond says he sees "reasons to be optimistic" about the future of cycling,

Talking to The Telegraph's Oliver Pickup ahead of this week's London Bike Show, where he will give a talk with cycling journalist Richard Moore, LeMond said that after the fall of Lance Armstrong, teams would think twice about organising doping programs.

He said: "I believed for a long time that the sport needed to be changed but only the downfall of Armstrong would allow that to happen. With new leaders, like Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) president Brian Cookson, there are reasons to be optimistic.

"Now everybody will have a second thought about organising a doping programme, because effectively you’re going to get caught, going to get exposed. Now I think most riders would rather not win races, than win something and then have it ruined about 50 years down the road."

Faced with Armstrong's notorious litigiousness, LeMond kept to himself his belief that Armstrong's successes were not legitimate. For years every conversation LeMond had about cycling focussed on doping, and that led to him wanting to speak up about Armstrong.

He said: "I didn’t like the way he extorted people – no other cyclist had ever done that. Riders were caught up in his system. Because of my stance I was constantly linked with Armstrong, and was basically threatened with a $20 million lawsuit, so I had to keep quiet.

"I originally thought: “Screw it, I’m not going to be imprisoned and blackmailed and extorted.” But I did, I got shut up for six years … money talks. If I said anything that would mention Lance Armstrong they would turn around and sue me, so I had to walk away from my bike."

Armstrong rose to prominence in the aftermath of the Festina Affair, in which the team sponsored by the watchmaker left the 1998 Tour de France in disgrace after French police found drugs in the car of team soigneur Willy Voet.

LeMond is particularly angry that rather than supporting clean racing after the Festina scandal, Armstrong exploited the situation.

He said: "However, rather than go clean Armstrong took advantage of that. You get one bad apple, then the rest turn rotten.

"So my issues with doping arose before him, but what muddied the waters was the support he gained in the US.

"The propaganda was frightening. He hijacked the sport. He used his money and used his links to talk to people at UCI and he had a 'get out of jail card' that no other rider really had."

Nevertheless LeMond doesn't believe in immediate lifetime bans for dopers. He said he had been worried about his stint last year as an analyst for Eurosport's Tour de France coverage, because riders and managers who had been  involved in doping in the past might think he had an agenda.

He said: "I do believe in second chances; I don’t believe that one strike you’re out. Two strikes and you are out."

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

Latest Comments