The former England footballer turned cancer fundraiser talks to CW about his planned rides with the Texan.

Former footballer Geoff Thomas has defended his decision to invite Lance Armstrong to take part in his fundraising bike ride that will see him ride the full 2015 Tour de France route.

Cancer survivor Thomas is aiming to cycle the entire Tour route, with the aim of raising £1m for Cure Leukaemia, one day ahead of the race.

Last weekend’s Mail on Sunday reported that Thomas has invited the disgraced former racer to join him for a couple of stages.

UCI President Brian Cookson is among those who have criticised the move, saying it is “completely inappropriate” of Armstrong to take part.

Cycling Weekly spoke to Thomas about why he invited Armstrong to join him, and the reaction since the story broke.

CW: Are you surprised by the reaction to the story?
GT: No, not at all. I think what’s delighted me is that people who know about what I’m doing have responded well to my decision to involve Lance. I knew I’d get a reaction from people who may have not looked to deep into the story. I believe the positives will outweigh that as we go on.

CW: Can you understand it? Do you not feel Lance Armstrong has done enough to damage the Tour already?
GT: Of course I can. I’ve been intrigued about cycling since I became fascinated in it a few years ago, I’ve read as many books as I can about it, I understand its history, so I’m not naive to go into this without thinking long and hard about it. But I think there’s a bigger story here; to raise awareness and as much money as we can for this fantastic charity. It’s my job to work out how to do that as best as we can. This has stirred up a lot of people’s feelings, yes, but it’s all from a good side from my perspective.

CW: How did Armstrong get involved?
GT: He’s been aware of what I’m trying to do for the last year or so. At first he was quite suspicious, but I worked on him, told him about what the charity does, and he was intrigued by it.

I made the effort to go and see him about a month ago. I wanted to see how he’d react to an offer to help in the fight against cancer again. What I saw was somebody who was frustrated he couldn’t do that type of work with LiveStrong anymore. It’s a great opportunity to get him back into that realm, and hopefully in future help him make millions of pounds for charity again.

CW: Do you worry that your ride will be hijacked by, or because of, Lance?
GT: There’s going to be a negative attachment all the way through now, I know that. But the reason I got on the bike was because of Lance’s story and fight with cancer. I can’t forget the part of my life when I was diagnosed and fought the illness – it’s too strong for me to forget. He’ll pay the price for what he’s done, yes, and he’s tarnished his name. But I think Lance has got an opportunity to get back into the fundraising world, and that’s a good thing.

CW: Has there been any noticeable effect on donations since the story became public?
GT: There’s been a lot of support from people who are behind us; now it’s up to us to make sure we can turn this noise into raising money. We need to get our messages about the cause out there now.

CW: Which stages is Lance likely to ride with you?
GT: That’s all to be confirmed. I’m conscious that all of what people may say and do, so I’m trying to respect everybody’s concerns. He’s willing to do as much as he can – likely no more than two or three days. He won’t be anywhere near the professionals, he won’t see the Tour.

  • Thomas

    It is alright guys, Geoff Thomas thinks it is time to let Lance back in to cycling. Geoff Thomas ladies and gentleman! It doesn’t matter that anyone who is actually involved in cycling or stopping doping does not want him back, GEOFF THOMAS has said it is ok! THE Geoff Thomas, you know the one who had cancer, so he must be right. He is not being arrogant, he is Geoff Thomas, arbiter of all cycling.

  • Oliver Thornton

    Public roads, free country and all that and will raise some money I suppose.

    Could he not get a Tour de France winner to come with him though?

  • Eric Ross

    This is for a good cause , you must remember lance did have cancer and beat it. Give him a break.

  • John

    Perhaps Geoff Thomas, should have asked Betsy Andreu, Emma O’Reilly, Greg Lemond, Christophe Bassons,David Walsh and others who Lance treated so appallingly, not everyone who raises money for charity is a decent person, as we know only to well from recent events in this country.

  • Colin

    I hope Lance brings along his bodyguards to protect him from any attack by the knowledgeable French fans of the T de F.

  • hgjgj

    Armstrong didn’t win seven Tours. He won none. And calling people “haters” makes you sound like an ignoramous.

  • ras

    To some extent, Armstrong is responsible for the sport being in the state it is in today. Cycling was hugely popular around the world long before he came along. His antics have done immeasurable damage to the sport, with sponsors leaving, races cancelled and media coverage curtailed. But you are evidently an American who knows next to nothing about cycling or the world outside the USA.

  • Pbody

    The people who hate Lance for what he did have some serious problems with their own self esteem. It seems they were let down so much as they cannot see through all the smoke. Lance cheated for financial/personal reasons. Just like every other great professional athlete has and will do. Lance was just the greatest at organizing and caring it out. However, he beat all the other cheats as well so why is he the worst? 7, count them, 7 TDF wins. No other man can claim those cheating or not. Surviving cancer is another thing he did, which is his greatest victory and him helping those in his shoes is to be commended. I say shut up and let him ride anywhere, anytime for a cure of cancer!

    • splat

      No TdF wins. Also, you are deluded if you believe every “great” professional athlete cheats. And recovering from cancer does not make you are hero, any more than dying from it, or not getting it in the first place, does. People don’t “hate” Armstrong. They just think, given the harm he has already done to the sport, it would be better if he stayed away.

  • Chris

    There is the suspicion that LA’s proven drug habit caused his cancer in the first place. Therefore I submit that he is possibly the worst person to invite, as a figurehead, to this event.

    • ras

      There is suspicion that the Queen is a tentacled alien that drinks liquidised human brains through a straw. Therefore I submit that she is possibly the worst possible person to have as Head of State.

  • Jose Gomez

    I applaud this decision as this will bring a lots of Publicity well needed and that my friends = $$$$ Lance Still has a lots of Supporters and their is a saying ” You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down”

  • Niall Murphy

    Its got everyone talking about a fundraising event so that’s worked. As Geoff Thomas says it was Armstrong’s fight against his cancer that inspired him. Why are people still surprised that a ruthless sportsman used every means possible to win? Armstrong only had the same access to EPO etc as many other riders but they weren’t as successful. I am not defending him but witch hunts and ranting don’t help much. Lets move on.

  • David Noakes

    So why shouldn’t he ride?The Cycling Authorities set his ” sentence” for his wrongdoing,this is outside of the scope of that so let the man do something of use to the world,like raising money to fight cancer. He’s good at it after all.

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    There’s a lot of guys here are very brave when they’re hiding behind their computer.

  • Mar

    I am happy to see Lance join in the fundraising efforts to fight cancer. He has paid the price for what he’s done. I think we should forgive him and move forward. We forgive baseball players overnight, why not one bicycle rider who made a mistake? I understand the anger and frustration but it’s time to let it go. Ride on Lance!!

    • Rupert the Super Bear

      “why not one bicycle rider who made a mistake”

      Made a mistake???? Well I guess that’s one way of putting it! Hilarious.

    • hgjgj

      “We” don’t forgive baseball players. “We” are not interested in baseball. This is a cycling magazine.

  • NitroFan

    Did it for the media coverage it would bring his event.

  • Bjørn Idar Gjøvik

    See the bigger picture people… Just because Lance is in, you won`t recognize or support this charity ride. That`s just pathetic. Yes, I`m totally aware of what the man has done, but he wasn`t the only guy in the peloton doing it. He was just the biggest brick in the wall. He is getting punished way beyond reason and if he is, then pretty much every rider from 1989-2006 should getting the same treatment. Everyone around was getting caught, and but he was clean? Stupidity is a bliss… If it is that important, support the cause and not the man.

  • David Bassett

    Yes Lance did wrong, and has been punished. But whilst there are any amount of T.V. presenters and people sat in team cars working on the TDF what right has anyone to critics Geoff Thomas for getting Lance Armstrong to do what he is good at raise money for and inspire cancer sufferers I would like to put good money that most of the derogatory comments about Lance are from people that have never even turned a pedal in anger at any great level. A good old saying you can’t turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Get over it yes he cheated but he also trained harder and then most. That is why he was so good.

    • David Holmes

      I guess Bill Cosby, Marion Jones, Tonya Harding, Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and Pete Rose couldn’t make it so the promoter decides to go whole hog and instead invite the biggest cheat, liar and fraud in sports history.

      • Edward M.

        Oh, how original and amusing your post is. You should do us all a favor and try using a PED for your comedy.

      • David Bassett

        I guess Bill Cosby(Comedian), Marion Jones (Runner), Tonya Harding (American figure skater), Barry Bonds (baseball), Mark McGuire(American former professional baseball player currently serving as hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers), Sammy Sosa(professional baseball) and Pete Rose (Baseball player) couldn’t make it so the promoter decides to go whole hog and instead invite the biggest
        cheat, liar and fraud in sports history. What the “F” are you on. I don’t think that lot could ride a bike,it shows
        that you are a bigger comedian than Bill Cosby

  • David Holmes

    Let’s see now. I want to put on a charity ride. Who should I invite ? I got it. I’ll invite the biggest cheat, liar and fraud in sports history. That ought to do the trick. I’ll invite the guy running from charges of

    Fraud, conspiracy, perjury, aiding and abetting, federal witness tampering and intimidation, coercing others to dope thru threats and intimidation, trafficking over multiple countries and continents for over a decade, masterminding and managing a systematic doping program over multiple countries and continents for over a decade, etc., etc. He even got Sheryl Crow and his ex wife implicated in international trafficking to the point they were forced to testify under oath in front of a grand jury.

    Yeah – that’s the guy I’ll invite to my charity ride.

    • Kevino Daviessss

      Yes, well put!
      But an oversight by you and Mr Cookson, we have the current Olympic road champion running the worst doping offenders we have seen for many years! Probably most things you state above are correct with Astana yet all we do is worry about what LA is doing! I would rather Mr Cookson spent his time talking about this current abuse in cycling rather than past history from a guy who is banned from cycling, all I suggest Mr Cookson is doing is promoting LA charity effort and we will see him being supported by many thousands due AMr Cooksons publicity….

      • James Cooper

        Good thought-provoking posts from you too Kevino on all related articles.

    • Rupert the Super Bear

      Great post David.

    • Bieber_Hater

      fuck you

    • The Awakening

      I am with you on the irony.

      The question of course that must be asked, is why didn’t invite all those that have suffered from the BULLYING and INTIMIDATION from Lance Armstrong?

      Emma O’Reilly, the whistle-blowing masseuse on Armstrong’s former US Postal team.

      Christophe Bassons, who abandoned his one and only Tour de France in 1999, after a posse of riders, led by Armstrong, made their dissatisfaction clear following his anti-doping sentiments expressed in a newspaper column.

      Filippo Simeoni, the former Italian cyclist Lance Armstrong threatened in 2004.

  • Kevino Daviessss

    Hasn’t Cookson got more things to sort out in the Pro and Amateur Peleton currently? Astana, ex Grand Tour Dopers still racing and a systematic failure of Doping in cycling still twenty years on!!
    I think it’s Cookson trying to divert attention from what he’s going to do to sort doping out?
    To having a cheap shot about a couple of guys riding round France for charity? When was that illegal??

  • Heidi Macklin

    I think this is great. Let us remember Lance did do great work for charity. Perhaps people should do as suggested and look deeper into the story. Lance would have won at least one Tour without having used performance enhancement. I have been nothing but sad for Lance that he did not believe in himself. We will never truly know which of our sporting heros are guilt free. As a long distance road cyclist I am really happy that Lance has the chance to get back on the bike, and do what he loves :).

    • bod

      Spot on Heidi. And whilst we’re about it let’s not forget Jimmy Savile!! Because although he may have raped a lot of children, you can’t deny he did a lot for charity.

      • Edward M.

        Really? You have shown yourself to be a sick person for making a statement such as that.

        • bod

          No. Not really you clueless dunce. I take it you don’t get irony Edward. I’m actually quite ambivalent about the use of drugs in sport but that doesn’t mean i can’t spot a wrong’un when i see one.

          • Edward M.

            I can assure you that your irony is not lost on me. Neither is the bad taste and general inappropriateness of comparing PED use with child sexual abuse. I think the true dunce in this situation is the person who has to resort that type of humor in an attempt to make a point.

        • Rupert the Super Bear

          Bod is correct.

  • AndyAS

    ” UCI President Brian Cookson is among those who have criticised the move, saying it is “completely inappropriate” of Armstrong to take part.”

    Since when does the UCI have the right to comment on who Geoff Thomas invites to join him on his fund-raising ride. Mr Cookson might be well advised to keep his nose out of this. The UCI hasn’t exactly been whiter than white in the history of doping!!!!!

    • Edward M.

      Well said.

    • ghh

      The UCI has the right to comment on anything it wants to, just as you and I do.

  • zero

    As a cyclist and a Palace fan of forty-five years standing, anything Geoff Thomas does is okay by me. If he thinks this is a good move, I absolutely trust him.
    That is all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/phil.hughes.35728 Phil Hughes

    Lance Arms tong screwed up royally and big time and has been paying for it for the past few years and will continue paying for it for the rest of his life. Yet many people (some of them post here) don’t think he has been or is being punished enough, they would put him in prison for the rest of his life. YET, he won those TDF titles when the larger majority, if not all , of the peloton was doping right along with him. You can say that he was a doper but cannot deny that he provided some of the most exciting cycling of the 90’s and early 2000’s. Watching the TDF these days is about as exciting as watching the grass grow. I say let it go. let the guy ride again.

    • Rupert the Super Bear

      Get out of here, you fool. How dare Lance besmirch ths great event again – stay way Lance, you cheating bully.

      Some of you American fans desperately need a reality check. Lance cheated, he REALLY cheated.

      • Edward M.

        So do you believe that allowing Alberto Contador to race and quite possibly win is “besmirching” the event? What about allowing Miguel Indurain to show up to press events for the race? You don’t like Lance, we get it. So maybe stop reading articles about him?

        • Rupert the Super Bear

          Whether they doped or not, they certainly didn’t dope as much as Lance. Neither did they bully other riders – in fact both Spaniards were and are lovely fellows.

          And Lance’s charity rap – yes, admirable in some ways, but looked at now it was just another cynical maneuver from Lance to deflect attention from his real game – cheating.

          • Edward M.

            Lance and Contador were on the same team. I highly doubt there many differences in their doping programs. As for the Livestrong facade portion of your comment, If being a “lovely fellow” can wipe out major doping violations I would think that starting a major worldwide charity organization and donating not only millions of your own dollars but countless hours of unpublicized time would carry some weight? Livestrong is real, and the time and money donated were real. It was not a farce and is not a farce.

          • Rupert the Super Bear

            Lance and Contador were only briefly together, and many UK fans think it’s highly probable Lance spiked Contador or did something underhand to make Alberto test postive. Leaving that aside, his behaviour towards Contador was a disgrace anyway.

            Lance is a downright nasty piece of work and Geoff is naive in bringing Lance back to the Tour in any way at all. If you think we’re unhappy about this in the UK, I can tell you the French will be appalled.

    • Eric Prot

      Christophe Bassons may disagree with you about all of the peleton doping …

      It’s not exciting watching someone with little natural talent winning a race because they are better at cheating than anyone else …

      He did provide some of the most memorable lying and bullying in sport during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s …

      • Edward M.

        Little natural talent? I’m curious as to what type of knowledge would qualify someone to make that statement as fact?

        • Rupert the Super Bear

          I think the fact that Lance rode so few of the great classics tells us a great deal. The odd early season race he did ride, he underperformed.

          • Edward M.

            So one must win the classics to have talent? Not so sure about that.

        • ghh

          Greg Lemond, who knows a little bit about cycling, doesn’t seem to rate Armstrong’s talent that highly.

          • Edward M.

            Somehow I think Greg Lemond’s opinion on this might be a little biased.

  • http://jimgarlits.com Jim Garlits

    Love Lance, warts and all. Just to rehash cold hash…everybody was doping in the 90s, Lance was just the most high profile doper, and he rubbed the officials noses in it because they were as crooked as corkscrews and he wouldn’t play their game.

    • mac

      Utter drivel. Except, perhaps, for first sentence.

    • Joe

      “everybody was doping in the 90s, Lance was just the most high profile doper” No, Armstong was not simply the most high profile doper he was the BEST doper. He doped more extensively and systematically than anyone else, that’s why he won seven consecutive Tours.

      • Edward M.

        And your proof of this, beyond a Travis Tygart soundbite, is what? The use of EPO, testosterone, blood transfusions and growth hormone are not something Lance perfected. If you were a big name then, you had the same protocols as Lance and his teams.

    • Rupert the Super Bear

      Total tosh Jim – sorry!

  • David Stanley

    Whilst I fully support Geoff’s fantastic efforts to raise support for his chosen charities, I am appalled at the cynical inclusion of Lance Armstrong on the course of the TdF the day before the real thing comes through. It sends a far stronger message about the dilution of the stigma LA has brought upon cycling than it motivates to support the fights against cancer.

    • Edward M.

      The same type of message that allowing Alberto Contador to race in the event the next day sends? Or maybe a Chris Froome THE exemption type of message. Please join us in the real world before making such ignorant comments.

      • David Stanley

        I don’t see how you can make such extrapolations from my earlier comments. Actually I think the punishments for drugs cheats are far too lenient in all sports. The BOA as one example did have it right in my opinion. I sincerely hope Mr Cookson delivers on his promises to clean cycling.

  • Luiz Felipe Vieira

    GO LANCE!! IT IS A NOBLE CAUSE!!! It’s a charity ride! Get over it, haters!

    • Eric Prot

      So the end justifies the means?

      Why not invite Michael Rasmussen, Riccardo Ricco and Alexander Vinokourov too?

      • James Cooper

        Good call – but their mothers would no doubt provide excuse notes such as –

        – Michael says he can’t make it because he’s ‘training abroad’.

        – Riccardo can’t decide which (blood) bag to pack for the journey.

        – Alexander is hiding from the Fashion Police for wearing a ghastly hat during daylight hours.

      • Edward M.

        Or Miguel Indurain? Wait, can we get Alberto Contador too? You are such a dullard.

      • Mark Jones

        The reason he is inviting Lance is because it was his book and story of recovery from cancer that gave Geoff Thomas hope and inspiration when he was diagnosed with leukemia. He did not expect to be alive today, 10 years after first riding the route following his diagnosis. I don’t think he has any connection with Rasmussen, Ricco and Vinokourov, so don’t see why he would invite them to ride.

        • Eric Prot

          Fine … if he was inviting Lance to enjoy the highways and bye ways of Scunthorpe or Grimsby… but he isn’t. He is inviting Lance Armstrong to ride the route of the Tour de France which he won seven times by cheating and bullying and inviting him because of his notoriety as a disgraced cheat – a notoriety Armstrong shares with Rasmussen, Ricco and Vinokourov.

          • James Cooper

            Spot on Eric – 100% agree.

  • James Cooper

    No such thing as bad publicity? Not in this case – full marks to Brian Cookson for stating so promptly that this is ‘completely disrespectful’.

    No doubt Geoff Thomas will provide a ‘Reasoned Decision’ for this move and tell us how much LA is getting paid for this? I find it hard to think LA would be doing this for $Nil as an altruistic gesture.

    What next to publicise the venture? Hiring a TV presenter with some ‘Top Gear’ (pun completely intended) to act as LA’s minder?

    • Stephen Abraham

      There isn’t a single aspect of your statement that is correct. This is excellent coverage for the Geoff Thomas Foundation, which are an honourable cause. Cookson is responsible of creating a news worthy soundbite that means nothing – what exactly is disrespectful in raising awareness of charity and to whom?

      Your Top Gear comment really just reinforces your ignorance – drawing conclusions with no more knowledge of the facts, other than those reported in the press – pitiful!

      • Namothy

        James Cooper seems to be an ignoramus.

        • Rupert the Super Bear

          No, no no, James has it right, It is insulting to the Tour de France to have this abusive bullying cheat anywhere near the great race.

          It’s not good for cycling, it’s not good for anybody. Charity being used in the most cynical way. Again!!

          • Edward M.

            I would be less insulted if he had chosen some of the “clean” risers competing for this year’s win. Maybe Alberto Contador? I wonder if Chris Froome could get a TUE that would allow him to compete? Charity is being used for charity. Insulting. What a joke.

    • NitroFan

      The publicity agency that came up with the idea will have had a defence strategy worked out at the time they floated the idea.

    • Madhura Senevirathna

      This is not a formal cycling event and it is for fund raising occasion for a disease. Even a one penny collected by this event worth as it is for a charity work.why we cannot justify his presence with his intention?

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    Thomas was getting very little media coverage before Armstrong’s name came up. Maybe you guys should just have left it that way.

    • Patrick O’Rielley

      Personally, I am glad the media decided to go “big” on the involvement of Lance Armstrong. It has brought awareness of the charity to the other side of the pond (North America)

      • Derek Biggerstaff

        I am a little concerned about what message this sends to young people who might be tempted to cheat to reach the top. Is it maybe that even if you’re caught eventually, you’ll still be rich and famous, and feted and made excuses for. It’s very difficult to quantify the potential damage. I wouldn’t assume that money can cover it.
        Thanks for your reply.

      • Patrick O’Rielley

        Athletes, young or old are going to cheat regardless of outside pressure
        and influences it’s all about personal integrity. Circumventing the
        rules is not new in professional or amateur competitive sports, neither
        is doping. I don’t agree with it nor would I condone it. But this has
        nothing to do with anything other than using a well known name as a
        useful tool to raise awareness for a good cause. And regardless of how
        you feel about Lance Armstrong, he has raised awareness of cancer by
        his involvement (Says the man who has had his life assaulted by cancer).

        • Derek Biggerstaff

          No one respond to others’ influence? No one weighs the pros and cons? Well I guess posting opinions is a bit pointless then.

          • Oliver Thornton

            If that’s what you are hoping for from it then yes. Its just internet chit chat.