Lance Armstrong made an ill-advised visit to the Tour de France on Friday.
On the occasion of the 100th edition of the race, Armstrong gave an interview to Le Monde, France’s premier daily newspaper. In the interview, Armstrong claims that the doping scandal that led to his professional demise has ruined his life, and the disgraced rider went on to describe the rampant doping practices during the era of his prominence.
Armstrong won seven consecutive Tours from 1999-2005, though his legacy was destroyed in the wake of a lengthy US Anti-Doping Agency investigation and Armstrong’s subsequent admission to Oprah Winfrey, in January 2013, that he had doped for most of his career.
Armstrong insists that winning titles during that time period would not have been possible without the use of performance-enhancing supplements. He further maintains that he is still the record-holder for tour victories, despite having been stripped of his wins in the wake of the scandal.
Le Monde’s interview broke little new ground, but Christian Prudhomme, the Tour’s director suggested that Armstrong is manipulating the race’s high profile to keep himself in the limelight: “This is a very big tournament,” said Prudhomme, “There are 2,300 accredited journalists here, there are cameras everywhere. So if someone wanted to transmit a message, this is the time obviously, especially since everyone likes this kind of controversial statements.”
Even so, there’s little hope for Armstrong to fully rehabilitate his image. Sponsors were generally quick to disown him after his Oprah interview; he reportedly lost $75m in one day on abandoned sponsorships. He had to sell his Austin, Texas home this spring. Nike held on to Armstrong until May 2013, but even they severed their longstanding ties with the athlete and his Livestrong charity.
Among the under-explored tragedies of the whole Lance mess is the fact that his fall makes key scenes in both “Dodgeball” and “You, Me, and Dupree” nigh unwatchable.
Oh, yeah, the other gem from the Le Monde interview: Regarding former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Armstrong said, “Il a toujours été cool avec moi” (trans: “he’s always been cool with me”). I’m sure Sarko is relieved.