After trading barbs over a four-year-old incident during the Tour de France, Italian champion Filippo Simeone and American Lance Armstrong have apparently buried the hatchet.
In an interview last week with the Spanish daily AS, Simeoni questioned Armstrong’s decision to return to the sport, noting that “a big champion ought to know when to say enough is enough. It looks like he couldn’t stand this time away from the front pages. He says he’s coming back for his foundation, which I honor, but there has to be something else. I suppose it’s to clean his image.”
The two had originally bucked heads when the Italian confessed to taking the banned blood booster EPO and human growth hormones while under treatment and direction from notorious Italian doctor Michele Ferrari during the 1990s.
Simeoni’s confession put extra heat on Armstrong, who staunchly defended his own controversial relationship with Ferrari. Armstrong later called Simeoni a liar in a 2003 interview, a charge that later ended up in the courts.
The dispute, however, involved a clash on the bike, too, during the 18th stage of the 2004 Tour.
Armstrong contacted VeloNews last week to offer his own take on the dispute , denying that he had chased down the Italian or attempt to intimidate him.
The two now appear to have found common ground in their respective charitable efforts. On Friday, Simeoni issued a press release applauding Armstrong’s work against cancer.
The release included what Simeoni’s spokesman said was a personal message to Armstrong:
I am looking forward to us cycling together side by side in solidarity. You stand testimony in the fight against cancer as I do for the donation of blood.
They are two projects of human solidarity that can be joined together. We are adversaries during the race but we can be friends in the fight against suffering. I hope to cycle with you soon and look forward to sport uniting men! See you soon.
Have a nice winter, from Filippo
The message was welcomed by Armstrong. Contacted by VeloNews on Friday, Armstrong said he would be pleased to cooperate with Simeoni on charitable projects:
Strategic alliances and partnerships have been a priority for us at Livestrong for more than a decade. As we move into 2009 and take this message global we will certainly look to align missions with others around the world with the goal of saving and impacting lives. Cycling politics and polemics can sometimes interfere with these causes so I’m all for moving on and doing our best to make this world a better and healthier place.