Armstrong hits out at Leblanc

Lance Armstrong goes on the offensive after comments by Jean-Marie Leblanc, and also gets the backin

Lance Armstrong goes on the offensive after comments by Jean-Marie Leblanc, and also gets the backin


The once cordial relations between seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong and Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc appear to have suffered permanent damage as the pair criticised each other following last Thursday's launch of the 2006 Tour.

Leblanc said he felt "disappointed and let down by Armstrong" in the wake of allegations made last month in L'Equipe that the recently retired American cyclist had used the blood-boosting product EPO during the 1999 Tour. Armstrong has strenuously denied the allegations and in a statement released on Friday stated: "Once again Jean-Marie Leblanc has taken an unsolicited shot at me and continues to ignore the truth. And while he may want to erase the last seven years I have nothing but great memories of participating in the greatest sports event in the world.

"Jean-Marie claims the Tour deserves a better fate. I believe it deserves a better leader." Leblanc has just one more year in charge of the race before handing over the reins to co-director Christian Prudhomme.

Armstrong's response to sustained attacks in the French press and by the Tour organisation is recent weeks continued, but in a more jovial manner, when he appeared alongside girlfriend Sheryl Crow on the satirical American TV show Saturday Night Live at the weekend.

"The last time I did something too well the French started to test my urine every quarter of an hour," said Armstrong, who was then asked to provide a sample by a show member sitting in the audience. When Armstrong refused the request, the 'tester', speaking in an outrageously over-the-top French accent, shouted "It's our race, stop winning it. I accuse you," before running out of the hall.

Armstrong also confirmed over the weekend that he has no intention of returning to top level competition in cycling.

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