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'I'd have been Tour de France champion even without doping' says Armstrong

Joe Robinson
10 Jul 2019

American also reveals the first time he turned to banned substances

Lance Armstrong believes that he would have still won multiple yellow jerseys at the Tour de France had the peloton been clean. The American was stripped of his seven Tour titles, dating from 1999 through to 2005, in 2012 following a retrospective investigation by the US Anti-Doping Agency.

In a long and detailed interview with NBC Sports, the 47-year-old was adamant that he and his US Postal team would have had the capability to win the Tour during that period had the peloton not been racing while using performance-enhancing drugs.

Talking to journalist Mike Tirico, Armstrong said, 'What I wish would have happened, I wish kids from Plano and Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and Brooklyn and Montana, as young Americans, if we'd have gone to Europe and everybody was fighting with their fists, we still win, I promise you that.'

Armstrong then furthered the point by highlighting how his team helped advance methods in the sport, such as bike technology and aerodynamics, which would have been enough to triumph in a clean race.

'We said we worked the hardest, had the best tactics, best team composition, best director, best equipment, best technology, recon the courses. All the things we said, we did,' said Armstong.

'We left out a part, but we did all that stuff. Because now this one thing is part of the story doesn't erase all that. All that happened.'

The Texan then continued to tell Tirico that while he realises doping was a mistake he would not change how he approached his career, something the controversial character has said previously.

Armstrong then went on to tell Tirico that he knew full well that he would have to begin doping in order to keep up with racing in Europe and that he was not willing to 'lay down' and 'go home' without putting up a fight.

'I knew there were going to be knives at this fight, not just fists. I knew there would be knives. I had knives, and then one day, people start showing up with guns. That's when you say, "Do I either fly back to Plano, Texas, and not know what you're going to do? Or do you walk over to the gun store?"' stated Armstong.

'I walked to the gun store. I didn't want to go home.'

Armstong seemed to look back with a fondness on that period and even appeared slightly emotional when talking about his memories of working with the team in Europe and how they worked together to win the biggest race in cycling on seven consecutive occasions.

He also divulged when he first turned to performance-enhancing drugs during his career highlighting an Italian stage race in 1991 as the first time he crossed the ethical line and 1993 as the first time in which he turned to the use of a banned substance. 

'There are gateway drugs that maybe they weren’t banned, certainly weren’t detectable or tested for. The easiest way to think about it is, if you think it's going to help you, even if it's not detectable or banned, then you've crossed the line,' he said.

'It was probably '91, maybe, at an Italian stage race. And again, it's hard to differentiate, because I believe we weren't given anything banned, but the doctor walked in, and I was in the lead of the race, and I wanted to win the race, and he walked in and I said, "Give me everything in the bag." And he just laughed.

'But it was just probably some form of cortisone but the first time I took a legitimately banned substance was 1993.'

Interestingly, 1993 was the year in which Armstrong won the elite men's road race World Championships, one of the few victories that remains on his palmares.

Watch the full interview below: