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Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has continued with his offensive against the Tour organisers and French sports paper L'Equipe, telling Holland's De Telegraaf that he will "never go to the Tour de France, or at least not to a stage start or finish".
The Texan's latest blast comes after he told Belgium's Het Nieuwsblad at the weekend that he is the victim of "a witch hunt and a publicity exercise" by the French race and its associated newspaper, which has printed allegations that the American took drugs during the 1999 Tour. "The paper has no proof whatsoever," Armstrong said on Saturday.
In his latest swipe at Tour boss Jean-Marie Leblanc and his team, Armstrong stated that "it is out of the question that I would shake the hands of hypocrites like Leblanc, [Christian] Prudhomme and [Patrice] Clerc." He added: "Of course I am going to come to Europe to follow some races and I will visit the team hotel at the Tour one evening. But you will never see me at a stage start, nor at a finish."
Armstrong said he thought the attacks on him were the result of France's lack of Tour success in recent decades. "I have nothing against the French in general. I am just criticising the Tour organisation and L'Equipe. The French have not been in contention for the overall at the Tour for 20 years. In trying to destroy me they are hoping to rewrite history, but they will never achieve that."
At the weekend the American said that "Bernard Hinault would not have had the same problems as me because he is French," and said that he would not be taking legal action against L'Equipe. "It is the biggest dream of the [Chatenay Malabry] laboratory and of L'Equipe that I sue them. But I am not going to fulfil their dream, sorry." He also asked for an independent inquiry to take place to find out how results of his alleged dope tests came to be leaked to L'Equipe.
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