SZ: Mr. LeMond, how come you’re playing golf in Ireland instead of going to the Tour?
Greg LeMond: I almost went to visit Team Garmin in the first rest day for a training program I have developed. But if I had gone, everybody would have asked me about Armstrong and doping. And I don’t need to be in the spotlight there.
SZ: Would you have been welcome at the Tour?
GL: Not now, for sure. In the last couple of years a lot has changed in the Tour management. They actually wanted to make a difference from the past after the Puerto scandal of 2006.
In 2007 I went to the Tour with my son and saw the efforts. But since then the reality is a different one. When Patrice Clerc was still there...
SZ: …the former president of the Tour organizers ASO, a critic of Lance Armstrong…
GL: …back then I worked together with the Tour. Then, when Armstrong announced his return in the autumn of 2008, at the same time Patrice Clerc had to go. Clerc was fired - and Armstrong all but reinstated again. And he was never actually gone. He was simply put under pressure in 2005 because his positive results for EPO from 1999 were published. So he took a break. All for show.
SZ: You are probably also not welcome because you, like Clerc, have positioned yourself as one of the few opponents of Armstrong.
GL: Yes, but I’m also still talking about the things they don’t want to talk about. Of course, the consequence is that it's been a headache for me for the past nine years.
SZ: Because of Armstrong?
GL: Yes, it all started in 2001, when I made a comment about his work with Michele Ferrari (convicted Italian doping doctor with whom Armstrong supposedly only worked for training; d:Red). That’s when he came into my life.
SZ: You reported at the time that he called.
GL: Yes, and he said he would find ten people that would attest that I had taken EPO too – like everything else, this episode has been known since that time. But since then he suddenly exerted influence on my life, on my fitness company in Montana, on the bike company Trek, who he bid to cut ties with me. He just tried to dominate others. Like before, when he raced.
SZ: He’s going to call it quits for good now.
GL: Although he already said two months ago that he would like to ride another couple of years. The investigation in the USA about Floyd Landis’s allegations probably puts him under pressure. It’s time for him to go. He and his people were, in my opinion, the worst thing that has happened to cycling. But it’s crazy how hard he's trying to preserve his life story.
SZ: Do you mean ASO, which acclaims him again, and the UCI world federation?
GL: Yes, few riders had as much evidence and incriminating documents against them as Armstrong. Jan Ullrich for example, or others, were out because of the Puerto affair, it was clear, they had to leave the sport. But the bottom line is, all that was less than what stood against him. If he was a normal rider and not a cancer survivor with a machine around him, he would have been driven out long ago.
SZ: What do you mean by machine?
GL: His people. I remember when I went to the 2003 Tour presentation. I was actually ready to let my differences with him slide because the Tour celebrated its centenary. So I went, Armstrong was supposed to go out to the stage with me. Then he came - of course, 30 minutes late. He talked to his manager, they talked with Jean-Marie Leblanc, then Tour director, they turned to me - and at one point someone asked me if I couldn't go up to the stage on my own and not with Armstrong.
SZ: Armstrong dictated the program to the cycling sport every year.
GL: Yes, he had them all on the palm of his hand, the organizers, the organization behind them. Always. It's not just his character that is controversial: he had positive doping tests like in 1999...
SZ: …which the UCI didn't prosecute retroactively after his comeback...
GL: Yes, and in the garbage of his teams they’ve found funny things, like last year after the Tour or like in 2000. Now Floyd Landis has talked about his time in US Postal. But cycling remains silent. That's the reality, that's why I don't believe in a change in our sport anymore.
SZ: You have no hope?
GL: Not without a cleansing of the whole house, beginning with the UCI. They have to go, the people at the top have to go. I don't know if I should make this comparison, but it reminds me of the Catholic Church and their abuse victims. In that case, the people at the top should go too, because they had knowledge about everything and they've done nothing about it. The same has happened in cycling: everyone was part of the filthy game, and noody says ”let’s sweep the whole house!”. Of course cycling survives, but legitimate, with pride? No, only business is important.