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Lance Armstrong: Winning Tour de France from 1999-2005 ‘impossible’ without doping

Jay Busbee
The Turnstile

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Lance Armstrong. (Getty Images)

It wouldn't be a Tour de France without a smidge of Lance Armstrong controversy, would it?

Speaking to the French daily newspaper Le Monde, Armstrong indicated that during the time of his Tour de France championships, the early 2000s, winning was simply impossible without pharmaceutical help. When asked if doping during that period helped riders win races, Armstrong responded:

"That depends on the races that you wanted to win," he said. "The Tour de France? No. Impossible to win without doping because the Tour is an endurance event where oxygen is decisive. To take one example, EPO (erythropoetin) will not help a sprinter to win a 100m but it will be decisive for a 10,000m runner. It's obvious."

Unfortunately, a headline writer (pro tip: writers often don't write their own headlines) read, "The Tour de France? Impossible to win without doping." And you don't need to be an Armstrong apologist to see that's not actually what he said. And he immediately took to Twitter to clarify matters:

Of course, Armstrong took plenty of shots at cycling's administration, ranging from petulant to incisive. He questioned who exactly would be the winner of the Tour during the years he forfeited his yellow jersey, if not him: "My name was taken out of the palmares [the Tour's list of honors], but the Tour was held between 1999 and 2005 wasn't it?" Armstrong said. "There must be a winner, then. Who is he? Nobody came forward to claim my jerseys."

And he leveled his aim at Pat McQuaid, the head of UCI, cycling's worldwide governing body. "Things just cannot change as long as McQuaid stays in power," Armstrong said. "The UCI refuses to establish a 'truth and reconciliation commission' because the testimony that everyone would want to hear would bring McQuaid, (predecessor) Hein Verbruggen and the whole institution down."

"It is very sad that Lance Armstrong has decided to make this statement on the eve of the Tour de France," McQuaid said in a statement. "However, I can tell him categorically that he is wrong. His comments do absolutely nothing to help cycling. The culture within cycling has changed since the Armstrong era and it is now possible to race and win clean ... Cycling today has the most sophisticated anti-doping infrastructure in sport. Measures such as the introduction of the blood passport, the whereabouts system and the 'no-needle' policy are the backbone of our relentless fight against doping. Armstrong's views and opinions are shaped by his own behavior and time in the peloton. Cycling has now moved on."

Following a 2012 USADA report condemning Armstrong as being part of a highly sophisticated doping network, Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France victories and eventually confessed to doping.

 -Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-

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