On the eve of 100th Tour de France, disgraced US cyclist Lance Armstrong has claimed that it is ‘impossible to win’ the three-week race without doping.
In his first interview since being stripped of his seven Tour titles, after admitting to taking performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career, Armstrong told French newspaper Le Monde that he disputes the American anti-doping agency's report on his offences.
"All this is just bull****," the deposed Nike patron was quoted as saying.
"Our system was very simple, very conservative and not evil. History will show that all of this is a simple posture by USADA to generate a media buzz," the 41-year-old claimed.
Armstrong said that "it is good to clear my name off the charts", half a year on from his infamous interview with American talk show host Oprah Winfrey, in which he put an end to months of public pressure by acknowledging and explaining his crimes.
The Texan was exposed as a cheat by the United States Anti-Doping Agency in October and spent weeks denying the allegations, though he now says he feels remorse: "I shall never succeed to fix everything yet I will spend my life trying."
But the former endurance rider's latest intervention will not be as welcome, particularly by top cyclists who have succeeded him - such as Bradley Wiggins and fellow Briton Chris Froome - both implicated in his statement that doping remains part of the sport.
Armstrong took an inherent swipe at Wiggins, the reigning Tour de France champion, professing: "It is impossible to win the Tour de France without doping because the Tour is an endurance test, where oxygen is decisive."
Asked how drug-use in cycling - which has plagued the sport - could be ended, Armstrong declared: "For many reasons, it will never finish, I didn’t invent doping. It didn’t stop with me either. I simply took part in a system which already existed.
"I am a human being. Doping has existed since Antiquity and will no doubt always exist. I know that’s not a popular thing to say but it is unfortunately the reality."
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