Three-time Tour de France winner Greg LeMond has said that Lance Armstrong, last year stripped of his seven victories in the race for doping, should go to jail as a result of his “criminal” behaviour. He added that without the help of performance enhancing substances, Armstrong would have been “a top 30 at best” rider.
LeMond, aged 52, was speaking last night on the CNN show, Anderson Cooper 360°. In his interview with the talk show host, the double world road champion also described Armstrong as a “thug” who used his recovery from cancer, as well as the charity he founded, as a shield from doping allegations, reports USA Today.
In 2001, quoted in a Sunday Times article regarding Armstrong’s links to the now banned Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, LeMond said: “If Lance is clean, it is the greatest comeback in the history of sport. If he isn't, it would be the greatest fraud."
Those comments were among the reasons that Trek, whose bikes Armstrong rode to all seven of his Tour de France wins, dropped LeMond’s bicycle range. The parties reached an out-of-court settlement in LeMond’s favour last year, although full details were not disclosed.
Asked last night whether he still believed Armstrong had committed the biggest fraud in sporting history, LeMond replied: "Absolutely. Absolutely. The greatest fraud was that – I mean, I know his physical capability.
“He is a top 30 at best. I mean, at best. No matter what. If he was clean, everybody was clean, he was top 30 at best. He is not capable of, not – capable of the top five."
The insinuation is that in an era when doping was rife in the peloton and the vast majority of the riders who achieved top ten positions in the Tour de France were later revealed to have used drugs, Armstrong was gaining more of an edge than any of his rivals.
Armstrong’s first Tour de France victory came in 1999, less than a year after he returned to cycling following his recovery from cancer. By that point, he had already founded his cancer awareness charity the Lance Armstrong Foundation, later rebranded as Livestrong.
But LeMond insisted that Armstrong had ulterior motives, saying: "He manipulated the cancer community.
"I mean, I have family members with cancer. Everybody has been affected by cancer. But it was the manipulation and using that… like Teflon. He used the money, he used the foundation to not only cover for him but also destroy people."
Cooper asked LeMond what he thought should happen to Armstrong now.
"This is not a sporting infraction," LeMond maintained. "This is criminal." Asked if he believed Armstrong should go to jail, he responded, “I do, yes."
So far, however, Armstrong has escaped criminal charges.
Early last year, a federal investigation into whether Armstrong and others had committed fraud in relation to use of sponsorship funds from the US Postal Service was shelved.
Moreover, potential perjury charges relating to what by his own admission were untruthful statements in his deposition under oath in the SCA Promotions case, which concluded in 2006, cannot be brought since they are statute barred.
He continues to face a number of civil actions, including the whistleblower case brought by former team-mate Floyd Landis, which the US Government has joined.
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.