Professional cycling won’t clean up its doping problem until drug testing is run by someone other than the sport’s governing body, former Tour de France winner Greg LeMond said on Monday.
“Drug testing has to be separated,” from the International Cycling Union, known as UCI, LeMond said. “It’s not a game.”
LeMond spoke at a University of Texas at Austin symposium on doping in sports. LeMond says riders don’t trust the sport’s governing body, which has had to defend itself against criticism from US officials that it helped Lance Armstrong cover up doping offenses.
LeMond won the Tour de France in 1986, 1989 and 1990 and is now recognised as the only American winner after Armstrong was stripped last year of his seven victories. He noted that European legal authorities have pursued drug cheats in recent years.
“I want to see cycling get to where I can say I can see a real winner,” LeMond said.
Joining LeMond for the two-hour panel was his wife, Kathy, Betsy Andreu, a key witness against Armstrong and the wife of former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu, and Bill Bock, attorney for the US Anti-Doping Agency, which investigated Armstrong. Armstrong did not attend the meeting in the city where he lives.
Bock noted that the UCI was highly critical of the USADA investigation and tried to stop it.
“They demanded we drop the case,” Bock said.
Betsy Andreu said doping in sports won’t clean up until athletes face criminal charges for cheating. A federal criminal grand jury had investigated Armstrong but prosecutors dropped the case in February last year without explanation.
“Make doping a crime. Athletes don’t want to face jail,” Andreu said.
Bock said riders are tired of living in the shadows about doping and should be given amnesty to come clean. He said Armstrong would have been able to keep most of his victories if he had cooperated with investigators.
LeMond has clashed with Armstrong for more than a decade since he publicly criticized Armstrong’s relationship with Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari, who is now a central figure in the Armstrong case and has been banned from sports for life. LeMond said the fight with Armstrong led to him being forced out of the cycling world.
But LeMond was reserved in any personal criticism of Armstrong.
“I have no vendetta against Armstrong,” LeMond said.
When reached by The Associated Press, Armstrong declined comment.
Betsy Andreu said she tried to meet with Armstrong when she was in town, but he refused.
“He didn’t trust me,” she said.
LeMond said he believes cycling can clean up.
“I’m hopeful,” things will change, LeMond said. “I’m not optimistic with UCI involved ... I love cycling. I believe cycling is an incredible sport.”
Bock said cycling should remain vigilant about catching cheaters and should not treat Armstrong’s doping with his US Postal Service team as an isolated case.
“The ultimate tragedy would be if this whole scenario would be viewed as the Lance Armstrong affair,” Bock said.