In the meantime, here’s a Q&A with the 2006 Tour de France champion:
Are you still going to race at Leadville?
Yeah, it seemed like a good idea back when I was training more… that’s going to be painful. I’ve been riding a little more since the hearing ending – I’ve been trying to get some more miles in. If I can just get a few decent weeks of training in I’ll be alright. I don’t particularly like to race at altitude and this one is at 10,000-feet, but I’ll be fine.
I don’t like altitude at all. I hate it. I did that thing a few weeks ago in Vail (Colorado) at the Teva Mountain Games for a fund raiser and that was a problem. The problem there was that I sat in that hearing for 10 days and I didn’t do [anything]. I didn’t even move. It wasn’t like I even exercised, I just sat there. Then I got on my bike a week later and tried to race and it was painful. Hopefully I can get some time up at altitude somewhere.
When you train, do you usually go to altitude?
When I really care and I want to be in shape and I’m training for the Tour or something, I go to altitude. It helps. It helps if you’re going to race at sea level, but if race at altitude you have to train there. You can’t just show up.
Is training in the Northestern U.S. humidity as difficult as training at altitude?
It’s not the same. It’s equally as hard, but (humidity) doesn’t help you adapt to altitude. It’s very difficult if you aren’t used to altitude. Riding around here is hard if you aren’t used to humidity. Those little hills that go up and down – you get tired fast riding around here [in Lancaster County]. You don’t ride 100 miles around here. In California, for example, you can ride along the coast and do 100 miles and not climb a whole lot and be alright. There’s nothing like that here.
How good are the riding conditions in this part of the country?
This is one of the best. If you want to win the Tour or are at the level I was at, you need big mountains. You need to be able to climb for an hour or an hour-and-a-half at a time. But as far as just riding goes and training and you want nice roads, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Last year at this time… what were you doing?
I wasn’t doing this. When does the Tour start? (told July 7) Right about now I was flying from California to France to start the Tour and I was in the best shape of my life. I’m not so much now, but I’m into some other stuff.
At some levels it seems like forever and other levels it went very quickly. The whole thing was a strange experience. Winning the Tour in the first place – although it was a goal – you can’t imagine it all you want, but it’s not the same until it really happens. Then I basically had two days to think about it and in those two days you win or just finish you feel awful for awhile. So I got through those two days and I really didn’t get a chance to think about, and little did know those were my only two days enjoy it and then this whole doping thing started.
Right there that eliminated any thought of winning the Tour from my mind. It’s always been dealing with this – and I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know how the process worked, how the testing worked, and for that matter I didn’t even know what the accusation was against me. I didn’t have any paperwork or anything. It took about two months for me to get it. So everything I thought about and learned was just about what I needed to do and how to deal with the press, and obviously, I had very little idea.
So I had very little thought about actually winning the tour.
Since then you’ve become a one of the leading advocate for athletes’ rights, I assume you never expected that was part of the deal of winning the Tour de France?
That wasn’t even in the back of my mind, and honestly, I didn’t realize the jeopardy that athletes are in because it never crossed my mind. I had no problem giving a urine sample because I did it all the time and I assumed that the people testing it were legitimate and out to do the right thing. It never crossed my mind that it could be the way it is.
And it’s hard for people to believe when I say it really is that bad. They think, ‘Yeah, he’s guilty that’s why he’s trying to accuse them.’ But, even a guilty person deserves to have the evidence against him provided to him without having to spend $1 million in a year.
Ultimately, an arbitration hearing can’t handle a criminal prosecution and that’s what it is.
If you were a baseball player or a football player, would you have tested positive?
Of course not. None of this should have ever happened. Look, if you’re going to enforce ethics then you have to hold yourself to the absolute highest standard. You can’t have a lab that’s doing the testing forging documents and doing just random things wrong, and when they do just write it off as, ‘Well, it’s just a mistake we’ll just right it off and ignore it.’
Either it’s science or something else. If it’s not science than what is it? Take, for instance, at the hearing where they brought in Greg LeMond and Joe Papp, neither of whom said anything. They didn’t say anything and they had no relevance. For example, Joe Papp told us that he took a bunch of drugs and apparently they didn’t help him and then he left. I didn’t know the guy, I never raced the guy – what that had to do with science is beyond me.
No disputes from USADA?
They don’t have anything to say.
Why is there a disconnect between the public/press on the issues? Is it because they are “doped” on the issue of dope?
It’s a lot of things and that tops it all off. The subject of sports is all about doping and people have had enough. So whenever the subject comes up and someone is accused, they just write it off as, ‘Yeah, he didn’t do it, I’ve heard it all before.’ That’s all fine and USADA and WADA say that [its] tests are perfect and people believe them because why would they say it if it wasn’t true? You can’t imagine that an anti-doping agency would want to do anything other than find the truth.
But the problem is they have this lab and it’s not a very good lab and they made all of these mistakes. And when they realized they had made these mistakes and made a huge public scene and Dick Pound [president of WADA] says that, ‘Everyone says he’s guilty.’ Well, if they back down from that then they lost all credibility. They just can’t all of a sudden say, “we’re sorry.’
What if they rule against you?
If they rule against me, they are going to have to fabricate something.
What really got lost and I have been trying to tell people this: when they got to the point where they had to identify the substance and they had to measure it, they identified the wrong thing. And that got lost in the whole big mess because there were so many arguments, but if you just look at that there’s no point in even talking about the rest of it. The other 200 things they did wrong don’t even matter because they didn’t even test testosterone.
And I don’t know how they are going to get around that! What are they going to say, ‘Well, it was something close to testosterone so we’ll just call him guilty.’ How is that going to work? I don’t know, but believe me, I’ve seen them do some pretty strange things to this point.
There’s a reason why they hide behind that gag order and it’s because they have nothing to say.
I assume you have heard about the Walsh book?
People have told me about it…
Are you going to sell more books than him?
Oh for sure. First of all, his book is in the fiction section so if people are looking for some entertainment, there you go.
His problem is that he just hates Lance. It’s clear. He’s not anti-doping, he’s anti-Lance. That serves no purpose.
It’s his third time writing the same book…
How many times can you write a book in different languages? It’s still the same book.
What can you tell people about Lance that no one else knows?
I don’t think I know anything that anyone else knows. People have perceptions of him that might not be very accurate, but I don’t know any details that they wouldn’t know. The guy is obsessed. With whatever he does he is obsessed, and whatever he does he wants to be the best at it. Ultimately, he doesn’t have a lot of close friends because of it and he winds up not being the nicest guy. But that doesn’t make him a doper. That doesn’t make him a cheater. It might make him someone you don’t want to be around, but that doesn’t mean he took advantage of anyone else or that he deserves the harassment some people are giving him, like in the Walsh book.
Next year at this time will you be in France?
I hope so. I really hope so and I think so. The longer this thing goes on the more I think things are going to work out because we put on a case that was never refuted even in the hearing.