Armstrong: Impossible to win Tour without drugs

On the eve of the 100th Tour de France, disgraced former champion Lance Armstrong stirred up a hornet’s nest by insisting it is 'impossible' to win the world’s greatest cycle race without taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Armstrong: Impossible to win Tour without drugs
Lance Armstrong in the yellow jersey talks to race organizer Christian Prudhomme. Photo AFP

Drug cheat US cyclist Lance Armstrong was once again at the centre of a storm on Friday after telling French daily Le Monde that it was “impossible” to win the Tour de France without taking performance-enhancing drugs.

Armstrong’s claims, published just 24 hours before this year's Grand Départ in Corsica, will now no doubt dominate the build-up to the 100th edition of the race.

“It’s impossible to win the Tour de France without doping because the Tour is an endurance test in which oxygen is a deciding factor,” Armstong said.

“To give an example – EPO ( the banned blood booster erythropoietin) won’t help a sprinter win a 100-metre race, but it will be decisive for a runner doing the 10,000 metres. It’s obvious.”

Armstrong suffered the shame of having his seven Tour de France titles stripped from him after the US anti-doping agency accused him of operating “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.”

After years of denying he took drugs, Armstrong then made a full-blown confession on the Oprah Winfrey show, where he admitted his sins.

He told Le Monde on Friday, however, that he was just doing what any other normal person would have done.

“I didn’t invent doping. It has always existed and it always will. I just participated in a system. I’m a human being,” he said.

Fed up with Lance Armstrong? CLICK HERE to view our gallery of the most iconic sites on the 2013 Tour de France route

Armstrong’s words come in a week when revelations around drugs have once again smeared the Tour de France.

French cycling legend Laurent Jalabert was forced to step down as a television and radio pundit for the forthcoming Tour de France because of doping revelations.

He was accused in a newspaper report on Monday of having taken the banned blood booster erythropoietin (EPO) during the 1998 Tour.

France’s two-time winner of the Tour de France in the 1970s, Bernard Thevenet, who himself admitted taking drugs, told The Local on Friday that it’s time to stop talking about the past.

“We are always speaking about these things that happened a long time ago, but we need to concentrate on what’s happening now.

“We should be talking about these new young riders instead of looking at the past.”

Another former winner Bernard Hinault also reacted angrily to Armstrong's comments and his claims that there was a doping culture in cycling.

"We've got to stop thinking that all cycle racers are thugs and druggies," he told BFM TV.

"It depresses me to hear all this. I think that when people do exactly what they have to do, in other words, proper testing in all sports, we're going to be rolling around laughing for five minutes.

"Stop saying it's cultural for God's sake. It can't be. There are plenty of young riders who've had dope tests and not tested positive…

"It's constant suspicion," he told the channel from Corsica, where the Tour gets under way on Saturday.

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Inaugural Women’s Tour de France to start at Eiffel Tower

The route for the inaugural women's Tour de France was unveiled on Thursday with eight stages, embarking from the Eiffel Tower on July 24th next year.

French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race.
French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.

The first complete edition of the women’s version of cycling’s iconic race starts on the day the 109th edition of the men’s Tour ends.

After a route that winds through northern France, the race culminates in the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Vosges mountains.

Danish cyclist Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig said she was over the moon to be taking part.

“I want it to be July now so we can get stared,” she said actually jumping up and down.

“The Tour de France is a reference and when you say you are a cyclist people ask about that. Now I can say I race the Tour de France,” she said after the presentation.

MAP: Details of 2022 Tour de France (and Denmark) revealed

Race director Marion Rousse, a former French cycling champion and now a TV commentator, told AFP it would be a varied course that would maintain suspense over the eight days.

“It is coherent in a sporting sense, and we wanted to start from Paris,” she said of the 1,029km run.

“With only eight stages we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225 kilometres. For the women the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that,” she said. “But it’s a course I love.”

Christian Prudhomme, the president of the Tour de France organisers, was equally enthusiastic.

“The fact it sets off from Paris the day the men’s race ends gives the new race a boost because it sets the media up to follow it more easily.

“It also means that with the Tour de France starting on July 1st and the women’s race ending on the 31st, there will be cycling on television every day of July.”

The men’s race is broadcast in around 190 countries.