Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong responded strongly to the Tour organizer's new president's comment that he has "embarrassed" cycling's premier race.
From staff and wire reports
PARIS — Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong responded strongly to the Tour organizer's new president's comment that he has "embarrassed" cycling's premier race.
"We can't say that he has not embarrassed the Tour de France, as he has had a quite a complicated history with it," Jean-Etienne Amaury said earlier Saturday in French sports newspaper L'Equipe.
The 32-year-old Amaury was named president of the Amaury Sport Organization earlier this week, replacing Patrice Clerc, who was known for his hard line against doping. Some observers interpreted the change as a sign that the ASO intended to soften its position.
Armstrong released a statement later in the day saying:
"The last time I checked I won the Tour seven straight years and was never once found to be guilty of doping despite seven years of intense scrutiny. Not to mention that my team of 25 riders over those seven years was also never found to be positive," he said. "We won clean and fair. Also, according to industry standards, TV ratings, worldwide media impressions, spectators along the route, and global sponsorships were at an all time high. Where's the embarrassment in that?
In the article, Amaury also reiterated the race's fight against doping remains a top priority. This came on the same day other reports said Kazakh rider Alexander Vinokourov would soon reveal his intentions to return to action after serving a one-year doping ban.
"The Tour de France's position has always been very strict and that will not change in the years to come," he said. "(ASO) is quite conscious of the fact that doping undermines cycling's credibility."
Asked whether a comeback by the 37-year-old Armstrong, who retired in 2005 after winning his seventh consecutive title, would throw suspicion on the race, Amaury said that "today's tools in the fight against doping are different."
Energized by the comments, Armstrong took the opportunity to make clear that while he may contend for the Tour title, he doesn't need the race's cache to continue his efforts to raise "the global awareness of cancer."
"...while I love the event and France's people, I cannot accept this sort of grandstanding which distracts from the Livestrong message that is urgently needed, and being sought out, in many other places around the world."
Armstrong announced last month he was coming out of retirement.