Greg LeMond, the three-time Tour de France winner, feared for his safety during his years of public opposition to Lance Armstrong.
LeMond made the shocking admission at a press conference held by the group Change Cycling Now, in London last Monday (Dec 3).
The 51-year-old, who won cycling’s biggest race in 1986, 1989 and 1990, was asked if he felt vindicated by the USADA enquiry into doping at the Lance Armstrong-led US Postal team that led to the disgraced Texan begin stripped of his seven Tour de France victories.
“Vindicated? I don’t know,” LeMond said. “That was lost a long time ago.”
“I was actually incredibly sad. I was sad because I actually have paid a huge price, my family has paid a huge price. I’ve been afraid actually for my safety.”
Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times between 1999 and 2005. USADA’s ‘reasoned decision‘, published on October 10, concluded that his US Postal Service cycling team ran “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”
Nothing in the report had surprised him, LeMond said, arguing that men like fellow CCN panellist David Walsh, an investigative journalist and acclaimed author, had previously exposed Armstrong’s cheating.
“The shocking thing is that it took so long for people to come around. I personally dealt with the threats, I dealt with the amount of money that he had to destroy people. And he destroyed people,” LeMond said.
The double world champion revealed that he had been approached by Tailwind Sports in 1995 to attract sponsorship from the US Postal Service. “I spent one year and said, ‘I don’t want to be with this group,’” LeMond told the press conference.
He compared Armstrong’s success and the investment in his career to the issue in the USA of sub-prime mortgage loans that triggered the global recession, and warned that cycling risked losing billions of dollars unless it reforms.
LeMond said he would consider shaking Armstrong’s hand if the Texan admitted his doping, arguing that exposing the “huge effort” made by “multiple people” to facilitate his cheating would be the only way Armstrong could redeem himself for the damage he had done to the sport.
An outstanding record as a cyclist and his long-standing opposition to Armstrong has made LeMond one of the most respected figures in cycling.
During questions at last Monday’s conference, he reluctantly agreed that he would stand as interim president of the UCI if the current leadership of the body acceded to CCN’s demands and stepped down.
“I’m committed if that’s what it takes. You can’t have the fox protecting the hen house. They [UCI president Pat McQuaid and honorary president Hein Verbruggen] need to willingly step down,” LeMond said.
“It’s going to take pressure. Any honourable person under the circumstances would have stepped down years ago.”
He spoke in favour of using power meters as a “black box” to monitor riders’ performances, arguing that the data they recorded backed up blood tests, and pointed to the work of fellow CCN panelist, Professor Antoine Vayer.
LeMond spoke passionately in favour of separating responsibility for promoting the sport from administration of doping controls, and said he had approached the ASO, organisers of the Tour de France, with this proposal in 2007.