When Lance Armstrong Forgets To Talk About Those Who Supported His Lies
Lance Armstrong in Costa Rica in 2018 on a mountain bike race. Ezra Shaw / Getty Images / AFP
Text by: Farid Achache Follow
Lance Armstrong revealed in a documentary on ESPN that he actually started doping when he was 21 years old, during his first professional year. If in the second part which will be broadcast Sunday May 31 the Texan addresses his Tours de France, he still does not tell who are the prominent personalities who allowed him to lie during his career.
Seven years after admitting to having doped during an interview with the American television star Oprah Winfrey , Lance Armstrong has therefore again engaged in the exercise of confession facing the camera. Contrary to what he had said to Oprah Winfrey seven years ago, he did not start doping in 1996 but in 1992 during his very first professional season.
Who are the accomplices of Lance Armstrong's lies?
Lance Armstrong, 48, was robbed of his victories after receiving a lifetime suspension in 2012 following an investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) which established that he was the head of " the most sophisticated, professional and efficient doping system in the history of sport ".
“ We are waiting for him to tell us about all the complicity he has enjoyed for a decade. Particularly at the UCI with its former president the late Hein Verbruggen who was very close to Armstrong ", explains to RTBF in Belgium, Pierre Ballester, co-author of the LA Confidential survey published in 2004, which tended to prove that the American runner was doped. He says, " He was buying silence from many people. He donated money to labs to, he said, help fight doping. Many people are responsible for this passivity which benefited Lance Armstrong and the media also have a responsibility in this affair. "
Lance Armstrong during the 2002 Tour de France. REUTERS / Eric Gaillard / Files
A decade above the law
“ In 1999, during the Sestriere stage I rocked (Armstrong ridiculed famous climbers that day, note). I say to myself : "It is not possible". Today we know! Whenever I raised this subject, I was told that I was negative. I had a stormy relationship with the UCI and I see today that it is complicated to fight when you cannot demonstrate doping ", tells RFI Daniel Baal, president of the French Cycling Federation between 1993 and 2001.
To find out how, the seven-time ousted winner of the Tour de France spent a decade above the law, we will have to wait. But there is no doubt that the Texan benefited from weight support starting with HeinVerbruggen, president of the International Cycling Union from 1991 to 2005.
The Dutchman showed great kindness towards the American by passing the sponge on a positive control with corticoids on the 1999 Tour and an order of convenience, drawn up after the fact. Lance Armstrong later admitted that the certificate was backdated. The UCI could in no way ignore cheating. Hein Verbruggen had also called during this Tour de France the French Minister of Sports at the time, Marie-George Buffet.
Armstrong or the art of staging
“ Verbruggen was extremely virulent with regard to the policy we were putting in place against doping. He said that we wanted the death of cycling and the Tour de France, ”said in 2013 in the columns of the World Gilles Smadja, director of the minister's cabinet . "What is now called Armstrong's big lie, with its pathetic side and its share of cynicism, could never have existed if international cycling authorities had shown a minimum of lucidity and firmness during the Tour de France 1999 ”, he continued.
" I had a very good relationship with Marie-George Buffet, we had a common objective at the time: find the means to fight more effectively against doping ", says Daniel Baal, often cropped by Armstrong, and who worked for the fight against doping, in particular by imposing controlled longitudinal medical monitoring of French runners.
Lance Armstrong and Hein Verbruggen during the 2002 Tour de France. AFP PHOTO FRANCK FIFE
“ Armstrong had a great art of directing, he was a great actor. In the years 93/94, when he was still not very well known, Verbruggen was already captivated by him and his charisma, ”recalls Daniel Baal. While adding: " It must be said that it takes a hell of a personality to get up every morning saying that we will win millions of dollars just by cheating and shouting on all the roofs that we are clean . "
Armstrong went so far as to donate $ 25,000 in 2002 and $ 100,000 in 2007 to the UCI for anti-doping research. Verbruggen used Armstrong as a UCI projects ambassador. Their relationship ended in 2013 with the televised confession of Armstrong, who decides to question his most faithful support.
The friend Nicolas Sarkozy
Another significant support for Lance Armstrong, the former President of the Republic in France, Nicolas Sarkozy. The latter never hid his admiration for the American. When he returned to the Tour de France in 2009, after four years of absence, a doping control went bad. Armstrong would have been covered at the top of the French state, by Nicolas Sarkozy himself, who receives him for lunch.
" Even Asterix was taking magic potion ," had launched the former resident of the Elysee. For Sarkozy, "Lance" was the most beautiful ambassador of French tourism across the Atlantic.
The former boss of the French anti-doping agency (AFLD), Pierre Bordry, had drawn the wrath of the rider and the president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), Pat McQuaid, by publishing a report which denounced the preferential treatment given by the UCI doping controllers to the team of Lance Armstrong and the yellow jersey Alberto Contador during the Tour de France 2009. At the time, the Paris prosecutor's office announced that it had opened a preliminary investigation after the discovery of perfusion equipment within the Astana team. " In France, the Armstrong affair was the subject of an omerta when so many people knew, " explained in 2012 to Le Nouvel Observateur Pierre Bordry.
Armstrong will boast of having had the head of the AFLD boss. " Goodbye, Pierre . This is how Lance Armstrong, friend of President George W. Bush (2001-2009), publicly greeted, and in French, on Twitter, the departure of President de Bordry. Nicolas Sarkozy was even ready to help Lance Armstrong when he had the idea of buying the Tour de France.
The Tour de France business
For the Tour de France, the comeback of Lance Armstrong in 2009 is also a blessing. Before its victories, the biggest race in the world was not broadcast on American television. " With the return of Lance Armstrong, business has triumphed over sport, " commented Pierre Ballester at the time. " With hindsight, I believe that the Tour de France had no more means than the others to stop the Armstrong lie ", tempers Daniel Baal, former deputy director general of the Société du Tour de France.
This did not prevent the American from criticizing the organizer of the Tour de France who had not invited the German Jan Ullrich (winner in 1997), his eternal rival, during the Grand Départ of the 104th edition at Düsseldorf in 2017. " We roll out the red carpet for Jalabert, Virenque, Hinault (all linked in their time to" business ", editor's note) , but don't we invite Jan? Pff… Fuck ASO! (Amaury Sport Organization, editor's note) ”.
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