Greg Lemond, the man who was the first American to win multiple Tour de France races says he is vying for the top post at the International Cycling Union.
In an interview with French newspaper Le Monde about whether he was prepared to run for president of the Swiss based union against incumbent Pat McQuaid, the 51-year-old said: “Yes, I’m ready. I’ve been asked and I accept …
“It’s now or never. After the shock of the Armstrong affair, there won’t be another chance. If we want to regain the confidence of the public and sponsors, we’ve got to act fast and be tough. If we don’t, cycling will die.”
LeMond, won the Tour de France in 1986, 1989, and 1990, and is now on record the only American rider to have won cycling’s most famous race after the UCI stripped Armstrong of his record seven Tour wins for doping.
LeMond has been a frequent and loud critic of Lance Armstrong, and has often publicly heckled him by shouting out questions about his VO2 max–a reference to the idea that Armstrong could only have achieved those levels by cheating with shots of EPO.
Perhaps now he feels vindicated enough to present himself as a champion of clean cycling, and the only American to ever have achieved high honors at the Tour de France.
However, allegations that Lemond himself cheated by using banned substances like cocktails of speed, or cocaine, for which no testing system was available at the time puts not only his claims for being a clean rider, but also his candidacy for UCI president in doubt.
Countless forums and other public statements have put Lemond squarely into the doping spotlight.
Lemond beat Laurent Fignon, a confessed doper before his death in 2010. Fignon documented the transgressions in his book “We were Young and Carefree.”
Writes one fan in a forum,
“[Lemond] beat a man (Fignon) who has since admitted to doping in 1989. He had the fastest time trial of that length or greater for many years (including all the years he claimed were full of dopers) DESPITE the fact that if you watch it, he’s rocking all over the place and very un-aero and using a flexier bike than today. He made up 58 seconds on Laurent Fignon (confessed doper), ultimately winning the race by 8 seconds. YEAH RIGHT.”
On Pandawhale, said another about Lemond,
“Basically, he doped, everyone knows he doped, but he attacks others for doping. The guy is the biggest hypocrite I’ve ever seen; he finally helped to take down Big Tex,[Lance Armstrong] as has been his wish…I think he thought people would honor him now as the “greatest *clean* American cyclist” but nobody cares about cycling nor did they ever then. LeMond …. is ….in fact, I’m not sure what he’s done since winning the tour de france, except complain about lance armstrong.”
Among the rumors, which Lemond has never confirmed, and no one has ever proved, was that the American rider used drug cocktails injected into the thighs prior to a race.
It was also alleged that Lemond was one of the first to use EPO, the performance-enhancing red blood cell drug formally known as erthroprotein.
Because of the statute of limitations, which is currently at 8 years, Lemond’s drug use cannot be checked. Opening up an investigation into his blood work would be difficult, if not impossible at this stage because it is not even clear if the samples still exist from 1989, which technically puts him in a safe place from where to mouth off against other cyclists.
But if Travis Tygart, the director at the U.S. Anti Doping Agency were to open an investigation on Lemond’s doping, no doubt he would pay no attention to the statute of limitations nor at the burden of proof which has been required by the UCI, tainted blood samples.
Tygart ignored all of those requirements in announcing he was stripping Armstrong of his wins since 1996,–16 years ago, and used hearsay “evidence” against the seven time TDF winner rather than positive blood samples–all in direct contradiction to the UCI rules.
Lemond’s bid for the UCI top spot will also be affected by his previous tense relationship with the Swiss based union.
As early as 2006, LeMond described UCI as “corrupt” in an interview in L’Équipe about doping in the sport. In 2007 LeMond suggested that perhaps the Tour de France could start a clean-up in the sport by separating from UCI, making his feelings known to Patrice Clerc and Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour de France.
BEcause of his highly public statements criticizing the UCI, Lemond has been sent letters by the organization threatening to sue him for defamation.
Then on October 24 of this year, Lemond wrote a letter to UCI president Pat McQuaid calling for his resignation, which he also posted to Facebook.
“I want to tell the world of cycling to please join me in telling Pat McQuaid to f##k off and resign,” he wrote. “The problem for sport is not drugs but corruption. You are the epitome of the word corruption,” he continued.
McQuaid, an Irishman whose second term as UCI president expires in September, said in October that he had no intention of resigning over the systematic drug scandals that have ruined the sport’s credibility.
“The UCI and its leaders have reacted to previous corruption accusations by filing defamation suits against Floyd Landis, who was stripped of the 2006 Tour title for doping and was a key witness in the USADA case, and Paul Kimmage, an Irish journalist and Tour rider in LeMond’s era,” wrote the Wall Street Journal in a report this October.
McQuaid has refused to back down from suing Kimmage over accusations that cycling’s leaders protected Armstrong. The case is scheduled to be heard on Dec. 12 in Vevey, Switzerland.
Lemond is backing Paul Kimmage and seeking to help him financially by publicizing his efforts.
So far no comment from the UCI.
Lemond also acknowledged he might not be the best candidate for the position: “I know I am not the best candidate, I am very political to run a federation. But I want to invest my time to make this institution more democratic, more transparent, and search the best candidate in the long term to run it.”