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Second Edition Tour News for July 23
Edited transcript of Lance Armstrong's press conference, Palais Beaumont de Pau, July 23, 2001
Q: You say record-breaking would not be much of an issue with you, but you explained your cooperation with Michele Ferrari as a wish to break the hour record. And you didn't answer Mr Walsh's question on how it influences the image. Could you do that now?
LA: When I spoke about records, I meant riding my bike for 2004, which is what it would take to break THE record of five Tours (wins). That would not be my encouragement, because that's a question of three or four years' time. Is the hour record - which is very different to winning five or six Tours in terms of records - is that a motivation? Yes, it is. But that has nothing to do with riding my bike through 2004.
How am I concerned with my reputation? I have a questionable reputation, because I am a cyclist. Everybody in this sport has a questionable reputation - if it's anybody on any team and they go out on the roads, they're looked at as a possible doper. An investigation that's launched here in France brings my reputation into doubt. We're all under investigation.
Until there's a conviction, until someone is proven guilty, then I can't view them as guilty because I see them as innocent. Does that answer your question...David?
Q (David Walsh): The question here is one of perception - Michele Ferrari is going to answer the most serious doping charges, lots of people in cycling, because of the charges, regard him with grave suspicion. You present yourself as the cleanest of clean riders...
LA: ...and I have the proof, which you refuse to believe...
(David Walsh): ...let me finish the question - you present yourself as the cleanest of clean riders and yet you associate with somebody whose reputation is incredibly tarnished. That person is going to go in trouble in two months' time. Would you not think it would be in the interests of cycling for you to suspend your relationship with Michele Ferrari until he has answered the charges of which he is accused.
LA: You have a point. It's my choice, I view him as innocent, he's a clean man in my opinion, let there be a trial. Let there be a trial, let the man prove himself innocent. Let there be a US Postal affair in France, let us prove ourselves innocent. Let's let that play out and then we'll decide.
I've said - unlike you like to say and you like to comment in your weekly columns - that I've not addressed these things. I've absolutely addressed them. If there's a conviction, we will re-evaluate the relationship. But until then, my friend, I see him as innocent. From what I've seen with my two eyes, in my experience, how can I prosecute a man who I've never seen do anything guilty. This is a free world, it doesn't work like that.
Now I know, you sit down every Sunday and write your column and you have the conclusion. It's Lance is doped, cycling is doped, they're guilty. Well let me fill it in with some other house of cards stuff - but that doesn't work, that's not fair. Everybody in this room, I think, the majority of them, agree with me. You've got to look at the facts and if this sport is doing everything it can, you've got to recognise it and you've got to respect it. I've lived by the rules, I've been here a long time and you've known that.
Q: Talking about the facts, maybe I misunderstood you Lance, but do you suggest the French justice has closed the investigation on the 2000 thing (US Postal). That's what you said in April. We asked the judge afterwards and she denies it, so what is the situation now?
LA: I never said the case was closed, I said the urine samples were clean. The case is absolutely open, but she has (said) the urine samples are clean.
Q: Are you more or less asking her to start a trial here...you said before, 'let there be a US Postal affair'?
LA: No, in my opinion, if the urine samples are clean and the blood samples are clean, I mean, what else do they want? The proof is there and you don't want to believe it. I'm okay with that. I told Jean-Pierre (?) the other day on the flight, you guys are like the weather. Sometimes it's sunny, sometimes it's rainy. When it's sunny, you put on sunscreen, when it's raining, you put on a raincoat and you live with it. I can't change the weather.
Q: If Michele Ferrari is found innocent, will you still work with him with a view to the world hour record and future Tour de France campaigns?
Q: Another question about the French judicial inquiry.
LA: I know they're clean because I know what I do and what the team does. But again, I remind you, the judge has confirmed to Reuters that the urine samples are clean. Now at the same time, we all know how long the EPO test takes and we all know when the urine samples were confiscated. I would love to be able to sit up here and tell you exactly what is going on with that investigation. But in my mind, the bigger question is to be asked of the process - why have you had urine samples and blood samples for so long and not given us, this press room, any answers? If I was one of you, that would be my question.
Q: Have you seen Ferrari at all during the Tour?
Q: In your position as a virtual statesman for the sport, in cycling the sport churns out a lot of bike riders who are not necessarily on the same money as you're on and whose futures are pretty-much uncertain after they retire. Do you think the teams or the UCI should take on a responsibility to help the conversion of cyclists from bike rider to public person, to help them with their careers in the future? Quite often, the bike rider finishes his career...
LA: Like other sports...?
LA: If you look at an American sport, like football, the athletes when they're done are supported for quite some time. But those sports have strong players' union and cycling doesn't anything close to a riders' union. It's a great idea, but I think we're decades away from that happening.
Q: Do you think we've really developed our arguments about doping since 1998? Would you, for example, think the Tour de France should be taken as an event that can be compared to a swimming event in the Olympics? Or do you think there's a case for revision of the whole approach to drugs in cycling?
LA: If I understand the question properly, it's a three-week race, it's not a one-day race where you can prepare at home and just show up and perhaps skip the control. We're here for three weeks, we're subjected to this for three weeks, I don't see how there's a way to avoid the tests or controls.
Q: That's not exactly what I'm asking - I think we're still stuck in 1998 mode, where everybody's throwing their hands up in horror, and we have to look at cycling in a different way to other sports and maybe look at recuperative substances and performing-enhancing substances. You're very open to discussing this and I wondered if you, yourself, thought maybe the whole approach to cycling should be separate from other sports.
LA: It's a particular event because, again, for three weeks you're on the road. Can a rider do a three-week stage race like this and not have an IV drip after he's depleted from a long mountain stage, to replenish his body, to rehydrate? I don't think so. Should that be considered doping because there's a syringe involved? I don't think so either.
We have to decipher between curing a person and helping a person recover, and doping. That needs to be done with the team doctors and the (French) minister. I actually think that happened before this Tour, the doctors said what can we bring and what can we not bring? I think there should be strict guidelines - you can have this, you can't have that. If you get pulled over at the border and you have something we said you cannot have, you break the rules. I think as long as they're clear, as long as they're black and white, absolutely. But we're just now getting to that point.
Q: How important was it to hire several climbing specialists for US Postal, given riders such as Heras have come into their own in the mountains?
LA: It's a three-week race and we have bad luck in the beginning. Again, we were a little behind sometimes tactically in the beginning, but even with the aggressive tactics of Telekom in the last three days, we were always able to keep Roberto (Heras) and (Rubiera) there and on the final climbs, when it really mattered and when you really needed assistance, they were there. So the decision so far proved to be right. We still have a week to go and the stages coming are hard on a team.
Q: The fact is there are several doping products which cannot be tested for, such as human growth hormone. How do you feel about being in a situation where sportspeople could take drugs that cannot be detected?
LA: There's always going to be an evolution in the world of medicine. There will always be speculation that athletes are using those drugs. But I encourage the scientists to pursue the tests to combat that. I cannot prove a negative, so it's always going to be a tricky situation. When they find a test for one thing, then somebody stands out there and says well, you must be doing the next thing..it goes on and on and on. There's only so much you can do. I can tell you, speaking of a substance like growth hormone, why would somebody in my position, with my health history, take something like that? There's no way, no way.
Q: (David Walsh) There are some grey areas (in doping), for example oxygen tents and molecular sieves and stuff like that. Have you used (these) and do you regard them, if you don't use them, as a method of doping?
LA: What was the second thing you said?
Walsh: A molecular sieve - you may not have heard of it.
LA: I've never heard of that.
Walsh: It's something that's been used in many sports to create an altitude environment at sea level. Do you regard stuff like that as a method of doping?
LA: No. And I do use altitude tents and I do utilise altitude training.
Walsh: You do use an altitude tent?
LA: At times, yes..and again David, because I read your stuff - you quote-unquote call him your "idol", Christophe Bassons, (he) is a big proponent of the altitude tent - absolutely natural, absolutely healthy, absolutely clean, absolutely perfectly legal.
(Walsh) You've never heard of the molecular sieve?
LA: Never. But I admit I will have to check it out now, I guess, if you think it's so important.
Q: You say the (Tour) record isn't what will keep you here, happiness will. If you have to endure this questioning about success, where does the happiness come from? Is it the actual winning, the performing in front of these people, or riding the bike itself.
LA: All of the above. I mean, guys, I'm going to walk out of here in about 30 seconds and you're all out of my life...unfortunately (ed: rich tone of sarcasm). When I go back to the hotel, I get a massage and I relax. When this race is done I go back to my family and you're really out.
But this is part of it - cycling is under the microscope and I have to answer that, I'm fine with that. But I keep coming back to: let's look at what the sport is done, let's look at the facts. I believe in the sport and I love this sport and I assume everyone here has a passion for the sport as well, otherwise you wouldn't be here. So I can live with that and I can be happy with that.