Veteran commentator Phil Liggett says that Lance Armstrong’s accusers were motivated by jealousy and that the South Australian government’s decision to pay the rider millions of dollars to come and ride the Tour Down Under was money well spent.
"There was a jealousy in the team," said Liggett, quoted on Adelaide Now. It was not reported whether he mentioned anyone by name, but he was presumably referring to the former US Postal team mates of Armstrong who had testified against him to the United States Anti Doping Agency.
"Why did his best mates all of a sudden go against him? I think Lance was keeping the biggest slice of the cake and living the lifestyle of an 'A' class celebrity," he went on.
Liggett made his comments at the South Australia Press Club in Adelaide ahead of the start of the 2013 edition of the race, which he is commentating on alongside Paul Sherwen.
Blood doping expert Michael Ashenden has accused the Tour Down Under of “prostituting itself” through the appearance fees it paid Armstrong.
But Liggett insists the South Australia government was in the same position as Armstrong’s former sponsors such as Nike in that they had all benefited from their association with him prior to his fall from grace, saying, “
In the case of South Australia, he maintained, the investment of sums estimated at between A$3 million and A$9 million in the three years Armstrong rode the race had been money well spent.
“I think Lance gave them their money's worth even though it wasn't quite in the way we thought," he added.
Liggett prospered during the Armstrong years as his and Sherwen’s commentary became syndicated in English-speaking countries worldwide, including the United States.
He seemed slower than most media figures to come round to the idea that the cyclist might be guilty of doping, last year branding USADA as a “nefarious local drugs agency.”
Sherwen formerly worked as a press officer at Motorola, Armstrong’s team in the mid-1990s, and the rider and, it is thought, Liggett, invested in a gold mine run by Sherwen in Uganda.
With their voices familiar to cycling fans in the United States as a result of their Tour de France commentary, both Sherwen and Liggett have been paid to speak at fundraisers for Livestrong, the charity founded by Armstrong.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.