NEW YORK, Reuters
Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has admitted he has been hurt by remarks from Greg LeMond, the only other American to win the Tour, about his relationship with Italian doctor Michele Ferrari.
“I was upset, I was surprised more than anything,” Armstrong said of LeMond’s comments in a Sports Illustrated article.
LeMond was quoted in the article as saying: “Ferrari is a cancer in sports, and it’s sad that Lance has had a five-year relationship with him. I would have all the praise in the world for Lance if I thought he was clean, but until Dr. Ferrari’s trial, we can’t know for sure.”
Ferrari is awaiting trial in Italy on two charges – the administration of products dangerous to health and sporting fraud.
Armstrong told reporters in New York on Thursday he called LeMond to confront him over the comments.
“Greg is a hero to me. I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for Greg,” the 29-year-old Armstrong said about America’s other triple Tour de France winner.
Armstrong, who maintains that Dr. Ferrari is simply a friend, said LeMond did not apologise to him.
Armstrong has never tested positive for any banned substances and insists he has accomplished his success by outworking his rivals.
“We work harder,” Armstrong said. “That’s what I see. That’s what I know.”
Armstrong, who intends to keep on working toward a fourth Tour de France title, understands his days at the top could soon be over.
“I hope I can be aware enough, smart enough, intelligent enough to walk away when it’s time,” he said.
“I hope I can say that a record or a number of victories won’t motivate my decision, to keep forcing something that doesn’t want to be forced.”
Armstrong will race and train, but not too intensely, over the next six weeks in Europe with his last race of the season expected to be in San Francisco on September 9.
“The training now will not be anything like it would be in May or June,” he said. “I’m not going to be doing six-hour rides every day.”
While Armstrong does not expect to be overhauled just yet, he realised it was only a matter of time.
“There’s going to be young people who can climb faster than me and ride faster than me and I want to be at the finish line to congratulate them,” he said.
Until then, Armstrong, who overcame testicular cancer, will focus on winning a fourth Tour de France, though he plans on spending more time in Austin, Texas, with his growing family.
Armstrong and his wife, Kristin, are expecting twin girls in December. The couple already have a young son.
He said the family would stay in Austin for much of the winter, and enable him to put in “quality time” at his office at the Lance Armstrong Foundation (www.laf.org), which offers resources and support to cancer patients and their families.
While he has three Tour de France wins, Armstrong said he considers his fight against cancer to be his greatest victory.
“It’s the illness that is the reason people know my story and are involved and care about the story.
“It’s cancer. It’s an illness that everyone is affected by, and are involved with, either personally or by a family member.
“Everybody always says, what would you want to be known as, a cancer survivor or a Tour de France winner? Absolutely, a cancer survivor.
That’s an easy question.
“It’s a big one to overcome a life threatening illness. That brings hope and inspires other people. That’s a no-brainer.”