Week in cycling: Armstrong blasts Livingston, French; Ullrich loses 'secret plans'

Livingston and Armstrong during the 2000 Tour  Credit: Doug Pensinger /Allsport
BERLIN (dpa) ? Two-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong reacted with disappointment Wednesday to the news that U.S. Postal teammate Kevin Livingston was switching to arch-rivals Team Telekom.

"This is like (former joint chiefs of staff during the Gulf War) Colin Powell or General (Norman) Schwarzkopf going to Communist China," the American said on an U.S. Web site.

Armstrong said he "could hardly believe" that his "loyal helper" would transfer to the German cycling team Telekom, which includes Armstrong's top rival Jan Ullrich.

Armstrong said Livingston "disappointed him as a friend."

Livingston was the first teammate Armstrong had informed about his cancer, which the 29-year-old survived and recovered to win back-to-back Tour titles.

Armstrong said the arrivals of Spaniards Roberto Heras and Jose Luis Rubiera and Colombian Victor Hugo Pena at U.S. Postal would make up for the departure of the climbing specialist Livingston.

Livingston said he left for Telekom because of financial reasons.

Listen to our Nov. 29 radio show with Kevin Livingston

Ulrich's 'secret plans' stolen
MAJORCA, Spain, Jan. 17 (AFP) ? Reigning Olympic champion and 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich's pre-season campaign has hit a bump after a briefcase containing his training plans for this year was stolen.

The case was swiped from the German cyclist's trainer, Peter Becker, in Majorca. Papers detailing Ullrich's training plans for 2001, as well as a gold watch were contained in the case.

"I only hope that the program doesn't fall into the hands of the opposition. I don't care about anything else in the case," a worried Ullrich said.

Armstrong to France: 'You got nothing!'
TUCSON, Arizona, Jan 16 (AFP) ? Two-time Tour de France champion and cancer comeback "Miracle Man" Lance Armstrong ripped the French for drug accusations, saying "it's unfortunate that the biggest bike race in the world is in France."

Armstrong made the comments to USA Today newspaper last week while training in Tucson. The American's statements were reported in Tuesday editions.

"We're living in an era of French innuendo and insinuation," Armstrong said. "We're living in an era of doping frenzy in sports. If you jump, run, swim or ride fast, you are questioned."

Armstrong and his U.S. Postal Service teammates are the subject of a doping probe by French judicial authorities.

French media dogged Armstrong's triumphant 1999 Tour run with questions about possible doping. After last year's victory, French television reporters said they found suspicious medical items in a bag thrown away by US Postal team staffers.

Armstrong steadfastly maintains his winning ways come from hard work, not medical concoctions.

"(French media) aren't interested in our training. They don't want to know about the sacrifice. That's no story for them," Armstrong said. "The simple truth is we outwork everyone. But when you perform at a higher level in a race, you get questions about doping."

Armstrong is hailed for his success in the United States after having fought back from cancer that had spread to his brain. But he was told by a French teammate that his success was why he was a target in France.

"Doping is a trendy topic in France. That's where all this comes from," said Armstrong. "I couldn't figure out why until Cedric Vasseur told me that people in France don't like the winner. They like the runner-up."

They also like champions, such as the reigning rugby and football World Cup champions. But cycling is at the heart of French sport affections. And Armstrong targeted those feelings as well.

Three-time Tour winner Greg LeMond, also an American, has said that the French attention to doping comes not from French nationalism but "a deep love of a sport that has a very special place in their society."

The French love cycling, Armstrong said, "but not more than the Spanish, the Italians or the Belgians. Their love affair with the sport is not greater than my love for cycling."

Armstrong denied French reports he will boycott French races before the 2001 Tour, but he will skip the only early season stage race in France to ride in the Tour of Switzerland.

Armstrong said that choice was made because the Swiss race has an uphill time trial, an unusual stage that will also be part of the 2001 Tour de France.

"I'm not trying to get back at the French," Armstrong said. "We're just doing what's best for our training."

Armstrong, who lives and trains near Nice much of the year, will join his U.S. Postal team next week when they leave to train in Spain for 10 days.

The French investigation focuses on the drug Actovegin, a calf's blood serum with many uses that could enhance the oxygen-carrying limits of an athlete's blood.

While not banned during last year's Tour, the drug was added to the banned list after the probe began. Its effects are similar to many other drugs already on the ban list.

US Postal team officials have said they brought the drug into France with approval of medical authorities in case it was needed for treatment of a major open wound and that it was used on a staff member who is diabetic.

But, the team insists, no US Postal riders used Actovegin.

Armstrong welcomes a recent order by the French judge leading the probe that requires urine samples be taken from all US Postal riders during this year's Tour and subjected to doping tests.

"I'm confident they will find nothing," Armstrong said. "We had been put in a position where we couldn't defend ourselves. Testing is the best thing that could happen."

What worries Armstrong about the testing is that no team official will be on hand to ensure fairness of testing and observe procedures. But he also knows the French have much riding on the testing procedure as well, possibly the future credibility of the Tour.

"This is a French-designed test and they need it to be credible," Armstrong said. "They can't mess with the results to make me or the US Postal team look bad."

Shop for cycling gear in the Active Sports Mecca


Discuss This Article