PORTO VECCHIO, France (VN) — His team president and captain would not touch the subject on Friday, but Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), fifth last year in the Tour de France, said he was certain it is possible to win the Tour de France today without doping.
Van Garderen’s comments followed an article in French daily Le Monde, in which Lance Armstrong said that he had to dope to win the Tour in his time.
“He’s wrong,” van Garderen said. “It’s been done.”
Van Garderen spoke to a handful of journalists following a BMC Racing press conference Friday on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Former Tour champion Cadel Evans and team president (and close Armstrong associate) Jim Ochowicz brushed off the subject of Armstrong and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation when asked earlier.
Afterwards, however, the American, who placed fifth last year and won the white jersey, spoke at length.
“The sport has turned a corner. I mean, I finished fifth in the Tour de France and I did that clean,” said van Garderen. “I believe Cadel won the Tour clean, I believe Wiggins won the Tour clean … If Lance chooses not to believe that, then I’d say that’s a pity for him because it has turned a corner since his era.”
Armstrong spoke with Le Monde for an interview that will be published on Saturday.
“Was it possible to achieve performances without doping? It depends on the race you wanted win,” Armstrong is quoted as saying in the story. “The Tour de France? No. Impossible to win without doping because the Tour is an endurance test where oxygen is crucial.”
He clarified afterwards on Twitter that he was only referring to the period in which he won seven Tours. Cycling’s world governing body, the UCI, stripped Armstrong of the 1999-2005 Tour titles in October 2012 after USADA exposed a vast doping network surrounding the American.
Van Garderen said that Armstrong should be careful if he is pointing to the current crop of pro riders.
“If he’s saying things like he doesn’t think it’s possible to win the Tour clean, then he should be quiet because it is possible, but if he wants to come out and say, ‘I’m sorry for what I did and I’m glad things are better now,’ which is the actual truth, then I think he’s the voice that people should listen to,” added van Garderen. “It really depends on what he’s going to say to whether or not people should listen to him.”
Armstrong should work with the anti-doping authorities, according to van Garderen, if he has useful information.
‘I was a Lance fan’
Van Garderen won his first stage race overall in May, the Amgen Tour of California. Along the way, he has become the United States’ biggest hope of winning the Tour de France since (ignoring Armstrong’s titles and Floyd Landis in 2006) Greg LeMond in 1990.
He explained that Armstrong was an inspiration when he began as a cyclist, but that he is now disappointed knowing the full truth.
“I had his poster on my wall [when he won his Tours]. I was a Lance fan,” van Garderen said. “In my mind, he’s still won those Tours. Yeah, there’s an asterisk next to that era, but you look at Jan Ullrich, who just admitted … Back then, it was different, but he still had to weather the conditions, the elements, and the roads. He went through all the suffering and the training.
“I still think he won those races, but yeah, it was certainly disappointing for me as a cycling fan to have all that stuff come out and to learn the ugly truth about what was going on.”