Phil Liggett came to the defense of Lance Armstrong in an Internet radio interview published Wednesday, calling the U.S. Anti-doping Agency’s jurisdiction and integrity into question in defense of the Texan, who is set to lose his seven Tour de France titles after giving up the fight to clear his name. An agency spokesperson countered Thursday, calling Liggett’s assertions false.
“I could get 10 people together and say, ‘I don’t like you. And you take drugs.’ But I have no proof. So the fact remains there is no evidence,” Liggett told South Africa’s Ballz Visual Radio.
Amongst Liggett’s most remarkable assertions was an anecdote describing a run-in with a former Armstrong associate who claimed to have been offered financial reward in exchange for testimony: “I met a chap, who worked with Armstrong, on Saturday in Boulder, Colorado. And he told me that he had a visit two years ago… There were agents from a particular agency, and they said, ‘will you tell us that Lance Armstrong took EPO, and we can assure you you’ll never want for money again?’”
Liggett also said that the witnesses USADA has lined up against Armstrong, who last week stopped fighting the doping agency’s charges against him, were either paid or protected.
“The reason they’re witnesses is that they’ve either been paid or they have been given a deal that they will never be touches as far as suspensions go,” he said.
Armstrong has been the center of two sweeping investigations, one by the Food and Drug Administration — which was dropped — and the other by USADA, alleging a systemic, wide-reaching doping controversy that saw the Texan traffic, use and administer performance enhancing drugs for more than a decade.
Annie Skinner, USADA’s media relations manager, dismissed the comments when contacted by VeloNews.
“It is blatantly false information from someone who has never had the courtesy to contact USADA for truthful and accurate information,” she said.
Liggett also said USADA’s case against Armstrong was “bad for the sport,” and wondered why the agency was pursuing him at all.
“First of all, you can’t turn a donkey into a racehorse with a shot of EPO,” Liggett said. “You have to be great to start with.”
He ended his interview with this: “It’s a filthy business. I think that’s the best way to put it.”
Liggett has long been tied with Armstrong, having chronicled the Texan’s comeback from cancer to win the Tour de France a record seven times between 1999 and 2005. Armstrong refused his right to arbitration in the USADA case against him last week and the agency handed down a lifetime ban, claiming that, because he did not appeal, his suspension was final and his record stripped of all results since August 1, 1998. The UCI has yet to remove Armstrong’s name from the international results sheets.
Armstrong continued to push back at USADA’s charges in public this week, telling a crowd in Montréal that, “My name is Lance Armstrong, I’m a cancer survivor… and yes, I won the Tour de France seven times… And for those who don’t know what I’m talking about, I love you.”