Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstong gave his thumbs-up to the imminent return of his disgraced former teammate Floyd Landis on Friday.
Landis, who once rode with Armstrong at US Postal, won the 2006 Tour de France but was stripped of that title and suspended for two years after a sample from the race’s 17th stage tested positive for testosterone.
Next month, the 33-year-old will mark his return to road racing at the Tour of California according to a report in USA Today.
Landis, who spent thousands of dollars launching an ultimately futile campaign to prove his innocence, said he’s keen to get back in the saddle.
“I feel really good and I’m working hard to stay in shape,” Landis told USA Today in a website report. “It’s good to have some goals and to put all that stuff behind me.”
Armstrong retired a year before Landis’s hollow triumph, but the American launched his comeback this week at the Tour Down Under.
Prior to Friday’s fourth stage, Armstrong, 37, admitted he was paid a visit by the Australian Anti-Doping Agency for doping control.
After the stage, which was won by race leader Allan Davis, Armstrong said Landis should be treated with fairness. And he believes his compatriot should be given the same positive reception as Britain’s David Millar.
Millar was applauded for admitting to using the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) and is now regarded as a symbol of the sport’s fight against drugs cheats.
“People serve their time and when their time is up they get to go back to work,” said Armstrong.
“Sometimes I get frustrated with people who criticise his return and then stand up and cheer when David Millar returns.”
Armstrong said that Italian Ivan Basso, the biggest name in the peloton to be snared by the Operation Puerto drugs scandal, should also be given a second chance.
“There’s no point in criticising Basso or Landis – they’ve paid their penalty… that’s normally the way society works. Let’s forgive and forget and get back on down the road,” he said.
Landis and Armstrong are likely to face each other at the Tour of California on 14-22 February and Landis said he’s excited about Armstrong’s comeback.
© AFP 2009