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Armstrong Says He’s Been Made Scapegoat for Drug Use in Cycling

Cyclist Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong speaks with Oprah Winfrey (not pictured) during an interview regarding the controversy surrounding his cycling career. Photographer: George Burns/Oprah Winfrey Network via Bloomberg

Lance Armstrong said he’s been made into a scapegoat for drug use in cycling and that a truth-and-reconciliation panel is the best way to clean up the sport.

Armstrong’s comments came in an interview published today with Cyclingnews, his first since he told talk-show host Oprah Winfrey this month that he cheated by using performance-enhancing drugs while winning all seven of his Tour de France titles.

Armstrong, 41, said a truth-and-reconciliation commission is “the only way” for cycling to move forward and that it needs to be run by the World Anti-Doping Agency, with the International Cycling Union having no involvement.

“As much as I’m the eye of the storm, this is not about one man, one team, one director,” Armstrong was quoted as saying by Cyclingnews. “This is about cycling and to be frank it’s about all endurance sports. Publicly lynching one man and his team will not solve this problem.”

Asked if he had been made “the fall guy” for the whole sport, Armstrong was quoted as saying: “Actually, yes, I do. But I understand why. We all make the beds we sleep in.”

WADA said yesterday that it wouldn’t cooperate with the cycling body, known by its French acronym UCI, after the union disbanded a commission set up to review its handling of the Armstrong case. UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani declined to comment.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency said it fully supports a “well-structured truth-and-reconciliation process in order to clean up the sport,” yet also expressed skepticism about UCI’s ability to independently review its own conduct.

Armstrong Fallout

Armstrong said he told UCI President Pat McQuaid “many months ago” that a global truth-and-reconciliation commission was cycling’s best solution. Armstrong was quoted by Cyclingnews as saying all cyclists would have to be provided complete amnesty, “otherwise no one will show up.”

In August, Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France titles and banned for life from competition by USADA for using prohibited substances after he opted not to contest doping charges in arbitration. He acknowledged in the interview with Winfrey that he didn’t think he could have accomplished what he did in the sport without doping.

The UCI was criticized for failing to act sooner. In October, it set up a commission to investigate, among other things, the relationship between Armstrong and the cycling body. McQuaid said two days ago that the commission wouldn’t be able to succeed without cooperation from WADA or USADA, whose officials withdrew from the process two weeks ago over the UCI’s refusal to grant witness amnesty.

Armstrong told Cyclingnews that the sport will continue to suffer without a global reconciliation commission.

‘Zero Growth’

“First let me say that cycling will never die, it will just simmer,” Armstrong was quoted as telling Cyclingnews. “Zero growth. Sponsors leaving, races canceled -- this we are seeing. This current state of chaos will just ensure that cycling goes flat or negative for a decade plus. Which is a real shame for the current crop of young pros the sport has.”

Armstrong said he’s been frustrated by the process that has made him a scapegoat and insisted his generation was “no different” than any other in the sport. He said cyclists have sought an advantage for 100 years.

“The ‘help’ has evolved over the years,” Armstrong was quoted as saying. “No generation was exempt or ’clean’. Not Merckx’s, not Hinault’s, not LeMond’s, not Coppi’s, not Gimondi’s, not Indurain’s, not Anquetil’s, not Bartali’s, and not mine.”

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