BRUSSELS, Jan 18, 2013 – Belgian cycling great Eddy Merckx on Friday
said that he was “extremely disappointed” that Lance Armstrong doped his way
to seven Tour de France victories.
“He admitted it and it’s difficult to hear,” said the five-time Tour winner.
“I was quite close to him and he often looked me right in the eyes when we
discussed doping and obviously he said ‘no’,” said Merckx, who won a a record
34 stages on the Tour.
“Since the USADA (US anti-doping agency) published their report, I well
imagined that things would go badly for him. My disappointment was already
huge at the time but it is even more so now,” he told Belgian daily Le Soir.
The fallen US icon told television show host Oprah Winfrey on Thursday that he had
used a cocktail of drugs to become the most recognizable rider in the sport
and said he thought it was impossible to win the race without cheating.
“It’s a disaster for the other riders. It’s so easy and so hypocritical,”
“The Armstrong era has been difficult for cycling and came after the
Festina affair when we discovered (the blood booster) EPO (erythopoetin), etc.
“But that is not a reason to say someone cannot win the Tour de France
without doping. When the other riders today hear that, they’re really going to
be happy,” he continued sarcastically.
“I just want to emphasize how extremely disappointed I am and I didn’t see
it coming. I don’t know how he could get to that stage, to lie to everyone and
all the time.
“I just hope that the current crop of riders will not be too disillusioned
by this news because it’s they who have seen their jobs put under permanent
suspicion. It’s not simple but it’s them I’m thinking of first.”