Lance Armstrong has admitted to “difficult” times since the release of a report which accused the cyclist of being at the heart of the most sophisticated doping program ever seen in sport.
Making his first public remarks since the release of the US Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) damning report, Armstrong did not refer directly to the scandal, saying: “It’s been a difficult couple of weeks for me and my family, my friends and this foundation. We will not be deterred. We will move forward.”
The 41-year-old American made his comments to 1,500 guests at a gala fundraiser for cancer charity Livestrong, which he founded 15 years ago.
However, on Wednesday he stepped down as chairman of Livestrong in an effort to protect the foundation from the scandal swirling around him.
That was the same day that corporate sponsors, including sportswear giant Nike, dropped him in the uproar over the USADA report, which cites more than two dozen witnesses including some former teammates and accuses Armstrong of being at the heart of sport’s most successful doping program.
World cycling’s governing body the International Cycling Union (UCI) will respond to the report tomorrow, and say whether it backs USADA’s demand that Armstrong be banned for life and stripped of the seven Tour de France titles that made him a sports icon.
UCI president Pat McQuaid will also come under scrutiny for his handling of doping issues.
Anne Gripper, who ran UCI’s anti-doping arm from 2006 to early 2010, told The Age newspaper in Australia that the UCI should have handled things better.
The USADA report, Gripper said, showed “not so much that he [Armstrong] was a doping cheat — I think everybody accepts that just about all cyclists were doing it — but the way he orchestrated that program and, more importantly, the bullying [and] the tactics used to influence the behavior and choices of young impressionable riders.”
Gripper also accused Armstong of telling “the sport how to administer its rules,” in reference to the UCI waiving a 13-day window to allow the Texan to race the 2009 Tour Down Under.
“I have always said that Armstrong’s influence was a danger in the sport,” Gripper told The Age. “He was allowed to ride in the 2009 Tour Down Under. He shouldn’t have been. Once again, for Lance, special consideration was provided.”