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French ex-pro believes motor doping happened when he was racing but problem has been eradicated now

Thomas Voeckler, who retired from professional cycling last year, has said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Lance Armstrong had used a hidden motor during his career.

The 38-year-old is convinced that some riders used the illegal technology in the past, but believes that the introduction of tests by the UCI has stamped out the problem.

Speaking to Le Parisien, Voeckler said: “At the start, when I heard people talking about it, I laughed. I said to myself, ‘What have they found now to damage cycling?’

“Later, after seeing certain reports, I was convinced that some people were taking us for idiots and using a motor.

“In my opinion, it hasn’t happened since the controls were put in place. It’s a form of doping that isn’t difficult to eradicate.

“Did Armstrong use it? With him, nothing would surprise me any more.”

Voeckler, who spent 10 days in the race leader’s yellow jersey at the 2004 Tour de France and again in the 2011 edition of the race, losing it on the final mountain stage, is set to start a new career as a TV pundit, providing commentary from a motorbike for France Télévisions.

Besides motor doping, he also shared his thoughts on the Chris Froome salbutamol case, which could see the four-time Tour de France champion stripped of his Vuelta title as well as receiving a ban.

“It’s complicated,” he said. “I’ve defended him a lot in the past because his attitude was beyond reproach.

“He wasn’t very popular on French roads. I find that he is very humble, then there’s that thing that slapped us in the face in September,” he continued, a reference to Froome’s adverse analytical finding for elevated levels of salbutamol, although that did not become public knowledge until December.

“You’d like to say he cheated. But you need to be careful because the human body is often capable of unexpected reactions.

“However, it’s true that the level is high, all the same.

“Some riders have been tested and returned high levels but didn’t have Sky’s financial means to defend themselves.

“It would be a surprise if he didn’t get sanctioned, because that would set a precedent,” he added.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.