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Lance Armstrong has steadfastly refused to have anything to do with his father, Eddie Gunderson, who walked out on Armstrong's mother, Linda, when Lance was just a small child and his mother was still a teenager. But on the very day that Armstrong was handing out the latest in a long string of impressive beatings to his rivals at the Tour de France, his errant father gave an interview to Dutch paper Algemeen Dagblad, in an attempt to give his side of the story over his failed relationship with Armstrong's mother.
Gunderson admits that he forgot all about his son for may years, until Armstrong started making news on the Texas triathlon scene, and his father recognised him while being interviewed on TV. "Even then I didn't really have any great desire to see him again," Gunderson says of Armstrong. "I had the impression that he was from a chapter of my life that had closed."
But Gunderson confesses that he had been half-expecting Armstrong to make contact at some key point in the cyclist's life - "perhaps when he got married to Kristin Richard, or when he got cancer. I remember when he got ill that I drove around Austin trying to find his house. His half-brother and half-sister, Dylan and Sonnie, were really excited about the idea of meeting him. But all I had was a picture of his house from a paper and after we looked around for an hour we gave up."
Gunderson says that the only souvenir that he had of Armstrong was a picture of him as a 10 year old. Less than polite in his references to his former wife, Gunderson says that he wants nothing more than to correct some impressions that have given about him. "Although I'm talking to the media, this is nothing to do with trying to get my hands on some of the millions that Lance has earned. I would simply like to put a stop to all of the lies that have been written about me. After all, that split [from Linda] took place more than 30 years ago."
Warming to his theme, Gunderson adds (before shooting himself in the foot): "Recently she spoke to People Magazine and told them that I was always beating her. Well, I admit that I wasn't an angel and I've done a few things in my life that I'm not proud of, but I never beat her as she has suggested. I only remember slapping her once."
Gunderson explains that he wants Lance to hear the other side of the story, but acknowledges that his ex-wife did a fantastic job in bringing up their son without much financial support whatsoever. "I realise that Lance would undoubtedly not have turned out the way he has. if I had stayed with his mother. I would probably have ballsed the whole thing up," he confesses.
Linda, who has been married four times herself, was the first of Gunderson's four wives. The pair met as 16 year olds, and Linda quickly fell pregnant with Lance, who was named after Dallas Cowboys' football star Lance Rentzel. Married at 17, the pair soon split up, and Gunderson later signed away his rights to his son.
Such was Gunderson's bitterness at being totally excluded from his son's life, despite not wanting to be involved it himself during Armstrong's early years, that he was hoping Armstrong would not win his first Tour in 1999. "I was his worst supporter," he says. "I didn't want him to win at all, but after that I changed my mind. I've always enjoyed his victories. Last year I said to myself: 'I am the only father in the world who can say that my son has won the Tour de France six times.'"
Gunderson, who now works in the real estate business near Dallas, describes himself as "not a great athlete when I was young. I preferred to run after girls. I've been married four times: the first to you know who, the second only lasted three years, my wife drank too much and one drunken day she took a 38 and put a bullet in her head." His third marriage produced Dylan and Sonnie, and he never sees his daughter at all since she fell pregnant at 15.
As for Lance, he believes he will never see him again, or at least as long as his ex-wife is alive and, he adds with a final swipe, can keep them apart.
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