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Simeoni Q&A: ‘The people who permitted this need to step down’

MILAN (VN) — Filippo Simeoni was one of the last witnesses to testify in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency case against Lance Armstrong, but was one of the first to confess. In 2002, he told the truth in an Italian hearing in Bologna, when he admitted he worked with doping doctor Michele Ferrari when the fashion was to keep quiet. In fact, he paid for it.

Armstrong, as the Italian outlined in his affidavit, made his life hell. He said, “[In the 2004 Tour de France] Armstrong told me in Italian: ‘You made a mistake when you testified against Ferrari and you made a mistake when you sued me. I have a lot of time and money and I can destroy you.’”

Simeoni eventually gave up on the sport, finding it too hard with Armstrong at his back. Despite wearing the Italian champion’s jersey in 2009, his team failed to receive an invitation to his home grand tour, the Giro d’Italia, and that summer he decided to retire.

VeloNews: What was your reaction to USADA’s ruling and the evidence coming out Wednesday?
Simeoni: The true surprise was it came out after all these years. They needed to do it earlier, but they didn’t. He [Armstrong] was permitted to do everything, he became a great, allowed millions of people to dream and fall in love. They created and destroyed a myth.

VN: Is it better now than never?
FS: It’s important it all came out even after all these years. It’s useless to mislead and lie with doping because in the end, the truth all comes out. It’s an important message for the youth. They need to understand that any secrets will be uncovered sooner or later.

VN: Armstrong ruined your career?
FS: All I said was the truth, which was asked of me in a hearing. I was called as a witness and I said the truth in front of the judge. I never said the name Armstrong. He, defending Ferrari, practically called me a liar. Now you know why, you see Ferrari was his mentor, his guide.

VN: USADA received testimony from 15 cyclists. Do you wish that was the case when you first testified against Ferrari in 2002?
FS: Several cyclists were heard, all who were found listed on Ferrari’s internal documents, but they all denied the evidence! I was the only one that said the truth, how it all worked.

VN: Is Armstrong getting everything he deserves?
FS: I don’t know if it’s right that he pays now or not, it’s late after all these years, after years of fairytales and riding on the top of the world. It’s right that all of it came out, but it’s up to the judges to determine how he pays.

VN: Italy passed its law in December 2000, making doping a criminal offense. What did you mean when you said recently after that it was irresponsible and stupid to dope?
FS: Up until that law, nothing would happen if you doped. When the law came along, you knew that if you doped, and they caught you, you’d be considered as a criminal. The controls were increased, the law was put in place, it was stupid to continue and dope.

VN: Can the UCI make more changes? Some called for president Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen to step down.
FS: They’ve done a lot. The biological passport… The mentality changed. Only some cases still need to come out, some problems from the past. I think that with this Armstrong bomb, it created a chance to move forward with a new message. In Armstrong’s era, everyone knew, but no one was saying anything. Nothing. Now the proof is there, the unquestionable USADA document is there for all to see. This will help cycling re-start with credibility.

VN: Can we go ahead with the UCI as it is?
FS: The people who helped, who knew in those years and permitted this, need to step down. We need new people, clean, who can help us re-start. In the end, they were accomplices in Armstrong’s mechanism.