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Italian insiders disappointed by Armstrong’s doping confession

  • By Gregor Brown
  • Published Jan. 18, 2013

MILAN (VN) — Lance Armstrong’s confession to Oprah Winfrey was entertaining, but revealed little according to several Italian cycling insiders.

“I was not convinced, I expected something more,” Pier Augusto Stagi, editor of Tutto Bici magazine and website told VeloNews on Friday. “He took the path that most riders take when they are found guilty: ‘This is how the system works… It’s impossible to win without doping… I acted alone.’”

Stagi and other Italians stayed awake until four in the morning Friday to watch the web stream of Armstrong’s interview with Winfrey, which he taped on Monday. Those polled by VeloNews said that they heard nothing new when details should have been revealed.

Of doping doctor Michele Ferrari, Armstrong said, “There are people in this story, they are good people, we’ve all made mistakes, they are not toxic and evil. I viewed Dr. Michele Ferrari as a good man and I still do.”

“Michele Ferrari is a great person!?” Does a great person create one of the most sophisticated doping systems?” Eugenio Capodacqua, journalist for newspaper La Repubblica, told VeloNews. “They let him go in for the interview prepared and didn’t ask him the right questions. David Walsh would have asked him the real questions, based on facts, not emotions.”

Capodacqua has helped shed light on several doping cases, including Filippo Pozzato’s relationship with Ferrari. He said Armstrong was continuing his lies to try to rebuild his image.

“Once again, he lied,” said Capodacqua. For example, he said that in 2005 he stopped doping, but his 2009 blood values between the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France were clearly indicative that he was being treated.”

As with VeloNews, newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport ran a live web feed during the interview. Senior journalist Pier Bergonzi said that Armstrong remained as icy as he was when he raced.

“He doesn’t give the impression that he’s sorry,” Bergonzi said. “And even now, he says he didn’t think of it as cheating. He considered doping as part of his training. Like putting air in the tires or water in the bottles. Terrible!

“Oprah has studied all the USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Agency) files, asking the questions that needed to be asked, but is unable to penetrate him and respond to his cues … Oprah is disappointed. She got the scoop, but has not taken advantage of it … The second part of the interview remains. We’ll have to see if Oprah Winfrey has a few tricks up her sleeve, but I think Lance has already said everything he’s going to.”

Gianni Bugno, former rider and current president of the Association of Professional Cyclists (CPA), expected Armstrong would have acted differently, given the chance now.

“I truly don’t know why [he waited to admit to Winfrey],” Bugno told VeloNews. “I’m sure that if he could turn back time, he’d admit it all to USADA to save sponsors and avoid a lifetime ban.”

The sense in Italy, however, is that the average Joe on the U.S. street bought into Armstrong’s interview. The insiders, however, feel differently and fear tonight’s second part will be more of the same.

“He’s not a normal athlete or cyclist. Greg LeMond was the first American winner, but Armstrong was different; he became 100 times bigger and also let us down 100 times more than anyone else,” Stagi said. “He’s a liar and will remain that way in the story of sport – one of the big liars. The sport has a lot of liars, but there are different levels. He was at the top.”

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown

Bikes kept Gregor Brown out of trouble growing up in Oklahoma — BMX, freestyle and then watching Greg LeMond's Tour de France wins on CBS television's weekend highlights shows. The drama of the 1998 Tour, however, truly drew him into the fold. With a growing curiosity in European races and lifestyle, he followed his heart and established camp on Lake Como's shores in 2004. Brown has been following the Giro, the Tour and every major race in Europe since 2006. He will tell you it is about the "race within the race" – punching out the news and running to finish – but he loves a proper dinner, un piatto tipico ed un vino della zona.

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