‘With or without doping, Lance Armstrong was the best of his generation’ says former team manager
Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong would have been the best rider of his generation with or without doping, according to the American’s former team boss Johan Bruyneel.
Armstrong won the Tour de France a record seven times in a row between 1999 and 2005 but was stripped of all those victories in 2012 when he was deemed to have cheated through the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.
In 2013, the Texan admitted the widespread doping he and his US Postal Service Team had carried out in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
There is now no winner of the Tour between the years of 1999 and 2005, the only years of the race to be without an official champion.
And Bruyneel, who was in charge of US Postal, believes Armstrong was the strongest rider regardless of doping as many of his rivals were doing the same during a dirty time in the sport.
"Lance’s character was assassinated. This collective demonisation is easy to do, but impossible to undo. It’s hard to take, especially as there was a lot of hypocrisy," Bruyneel told Eurosport.
"With or without doping, in all the history of cycling, every big champion was always the best of his generation. And Lance wasn’t an exception to that rule.
"Tell me what changed in cycling after Lance? Nothing."
Armstrong returned to the sport for the 2009 and 2010 Tour de France races, finishing third in the first of those behind teammate Alberto Contador and runner-up Andy Schleck.
Contador also went on to win the 2010 Tour, but was subsequently stripped due to doping offences.
Meanwhile, Armstrong has always maintained that he rode clean when he returned to the sport, but his third place in 2009 and 21st place in 2010 have also been taken away.