LONDON, July 25 (Reuters) – Lance Armstrong said he was not surprised by a French Senate inquiry’s findings that the top two in the 1998 Tour de France took the banned blood booster EPO because virtually all riders at that time cheated and told lies.
“I am not surprised,” the disgraced Tour winner told Cyclingnews. “As I have said, it was an unfortunate era for all of us and virtually all of us broke the rules, and lied about it.”
The American, who was stripped of his seven Tour titles for doping, called for cycling to address its doping past in a “collective and co-operative manner”.
“If we don’t come together, have the conversation and draw a line in the sand and then move on, we’re all screwed,” he said.
Armstrong admitted having taken performance-enhancing drugs in January and was stripped of the Tour titles he won from 1999 to 2005 after the United States Anti-Doping Agency said it had uncovered a sophisticated doping programme.
Armstrong did not compete in 1998 because he was battling cancer but the French Senate inquiry, published on Wednesday, named him as testing positive for EPO in 1999.
Italian Marco Pantani, who won the Tour in 1998 and died of a drug overdose in 2004, and Jan Ullrich of Germany, who finished second in 1998, were among those named in the 918-page report compiled by a parliamentary group who called for a “truth and reconciliation” commission (TRC) to be created to lift the veil of silence on illegal practices.
Since Armstrong confessed to doping on the Oprah Winfrey show in January he has called for a truth and reconciliation programme on several occasions.
WADA, the world anti-doping agency, the International Cycling Union (UCI) and national federations have been wary of the suggestion, although UCI presidential candidate Brian Cookson has appeared open to the suggestion of Armstrong sharing his past.
Armstrong continued: “I have not been contacted by anyone. I suspect in many ways they (WADA) are afraid of a TRC as it would fly in the face of the now famous talking point ‘the most sophisticated doping programme in the history of the world’.”
Asked if the Senate’s findings would benefit the sport, Armstrong told Cyclingnews: “I don’t know. I really don’t.
“I’d like to think that there is some good in all this but from my perspective, sitting here today, there has been nothing but damage done to the sport.” (Reporting by Mike Collett; Editing by Clare Fallon)