Cycling commentator Phil Liggett reveals more details about his relationship with Lance Armstrong and how he was hurt by the Texan's doping confession

Cycling commentator Phil Liggett describes how he turned Lance Armstrong “into a great cyclist” in an interview with the New Zealand Herald, where he insisted he wasn’t “in his pocket”.

This was the accusation that was regularly angled at Liggett during Armstrong’s pomp between 1999 and 2005, and then in the years afterwards when the commentator defended Armstrong amid doping allegations.

But while Liggett says his was hurt by Armstrong’s confession, he says he finds it hard to hate the former cyclist.

“People say I was in his pocket and strong friends but that’s totally untrue. I was hoping against hope it wasn’t drugs,” Liggett told the Herald.

“I wanted absolute proof before I spoke against him and, despite what they say, they never got the proof. But they got the confession. That’s what counted.

“The guy was still an incredible talent and a brave man. He was virtually dead with cancer but became a life support for millions of sufferers. He spent incredible hours helping those people and raising money.

“It’s hard to simply say, ‘I hate Lance Armstrong.’ And I never would.”

Liggett, who has worked in cycling since 1973, called all of Armstrong’s seven Tour de France titles on television and supported his charity work, raising money for those affected by cancer.

>>> Lance Armstrong hits out at hypocrisy in cycling’s doping culture

But the Merseysider says his relationship with Armstrong was mostly professional, claiming few really knew him as a friend.

“I built him up. I created him into a great cyclist, and he was, even though he took drugs,” he added.

“On the other hand, I feel hurt and cheated that we made him look better than he should’ve and turned him into a star. To be fair, it wasn’t just Lance. Pretty much all the top names were doing it, some of whom were never caught.

“I can’t totally decry Lance. He raised US$600 million [$925 million] to fight cancer. I’d MC his gigs around the world.

“I don’t believe anybody truly knew him. He’d rock up, shake hands, say ‘What are we doing?’

“I’d say, ‘This, this and this.’ Then straight afterwards he was in the car with black windows and off.”

  • Jamie James

    So the simple question is did he cheat to win? the answer yes. look at what is happening with the Russians with the olympics now. Take drugs your a cheat, no excuse.

  • Eric

    Lance has plenty of ability. You are ignoring his 1993 World Championship (do you ever even ask ewhether M.Indurain doped, BTW?) and especially, his 3rd Place in the TdF at age 38, when he was monitored incessantly and wanted to see how he would do without the PED. One of the best TdF performances, considering that not all of the OTHER cheaters were being caught, that year.

  • Eric

    The vast majority of the other racers would have had to dope to beat Lance riding clean. He certainly had as much talent as any of their best. But, people want simplistic explanations and ready-made scapegoats, so here we are.

  • Eric

    Ok…you need a sarcasm font or notation for this.

  • Eric

    But no one else ever cheated, in the Euro pro peleton…

    Come off it. Lance Armstrong did NOT create the doping omerta; nor, the systemic programs run by the cheating teams. He simply beat them at their own game. And for this, he has been scapegoated by everyone with motivation to play CYA for themselves, or felt the need to act sanctimonious in their pride and social antipathy.

  • Habanero

    Liggett is a fan boy and always has been. Pathetic.
    As for Lance’s ability on the bike – he had none without drugs.

  • Jamie James

    Probably the biggest cheat in sport. What about if he rode clean and others had the same chance to win, he would not of won half as much, other winners would truly be champions. Just like the doping that has been exposed in Athletics recently. Everything that was won by dope athletes should be taken from them the same goes for cyclists.

  • utah

    Lance is the best of all time hands down! I find it funny reading these comments.. Everyone Lance was competing against was doping. So who wins when everyone cheating.. the best/strongest rider does!!! So yes he is a 7 time champion. Its all about ratings and money. The heads of cycling knew what was happening long before Lance Armstrong arrived in Europe. He clearly is not a nice person but who cares.. That was the best cycling I have ever seen. The same thing happened with MLB.. The league knew all the players were doping but who cares the ratings were up and advertising money was poring in. It happens in all sports. its part of the culture and will always be! So enjoy the entertainment of sports for what they are.

  • The Awakening

    RS,

    RE: “Yet surprisingly, I have more respect for Armstrong than LeMond.”

    That is your choice to respect a ‘nobody’ who attempted to bribe another pro rider,a team mate with $300,000 to make false statements that Greg LeMond took drugs (EPO), when Greg won the Tour De France three times.

    Greg LeMond, the only US cyclist to win the Tour De France,
    makes the following observation;

    “This is not a sporting infraction, this is criminal.”

    When Greg LeMond is asked whether he should go to jail, he
    replies, “I do, yes.”

    Greg also states; “There is a point where people are just not good and there are some people, there are criminals that should not participate again in anything!”

  • NitroFan

    And the biggest cheat one that stole glory, Prize money and glory from other riders how great is that!

  • RS

    Yet surprisingly, I have more respect for Armstrong than LeMond.

  • RS

    of doping?

  • William Noah

    butt hurt one ball been cheating since he could walk.

  • William Noah

    well alrighty then!

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    Do you only do assertion?

  • The Awakening

    Stevo,
    I call him a nobody, Greg LeMond calls him a bully and a thug.

    Anderson Cooper: Greg Lemond Calls Lance Armstrong Bully & Thug

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AKR59f_3eT0

  • The Awakening

    Derek Biggerstaff,

    RE: “Armstrong is a disgusting human being, but hardly a nobody.”
    A ‘nobody’ acting and behaving disgracefully…

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    Armstrong is a disgusting human being, but hardly a nobody. All the available evidence seems to point to him having been clean when he won the World Championship road race, and that ride in the rain was very impressive by any standard.

  • Stevo

    From as far back as 1993? Are you sure?

  • The Awakening

    Stevo,
    A ‘nobody’ who never won the Tour and had all titles stripped from him…

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    Steve just asked a question. Why are you taking such an aggressive tone?

  • Stevo

    No. All I’m saying is that there is a difference between thinking something is true and knowing it is.

  • Tim packer

    Stevo. So basically you’re saying considering epo was absolutely rampant in all of Armstrongs wins and many years before Phil liggett an experienced commentator for many years was completely blind to what was happening in the peloton!!! You also seem to think that Armstrongs 7 unofficial tour wins raised absolutely no suspicion whatsoever.. Considering the French newspaper l’ equipe had proof of Armstrongs epo positive in 1999 which was covered up and still the only one not to think anything suspicious is Phil liggett !!!! Stevo you must be on another planet or talking about another phill liggett perhaps

  • Stevo

    That “nobody” was world road champion though. And if I remember rightly he won a stage of the Tour at some point.

  • Stevo

    Well today I have learned that even completely over-the-top irony isn’t always going to be recognized as such.

  • The Awakening

    Stevo,
    A ‘large pinch of salt’ of salt required…

  • Le fig roll

    I am a cyclist, of course my values are odd.

  • The Awakening

    IMHO, Phil Liggett tried to reason that these allegations were not true. The fact that Phil has now revealed, that he himself feels ‘hurt and cheated’ by it all, is quite telling.

    RE: ” Phil is still trying to spin it to protect Lance.”

    IMHO, Phil is still finding it hard to come to terms with what has happened. Phil is still trying to reason within himself, that this was a good guy, whilst the claims have been made, that it was actually part of the effective smokescreen to negate truthful claims against this supposed ‘good guy’.

  • Le fig roll

    You are young and have much to learn

  • The Awakening

    These two comments by Phil Liggett, are IMHO, telling;

    “I wanted absolute proof before I spoke against him and, despite what they say, they never got the proof. But they got the confession. That’s what counted.”

    “On the other hand, I feel hurt and cheated that we made him look better than he should’ve and turned him into a star.”

    Phil, hurt and cheated by a somebody/nobody, who now has been discarded to the dustbin of history, with the revelation that he never won the Tour De France…

  • Stevo

    Cycling is an American sport though. It didn’t exist before the late 1990s. The best bikes are American, obviously. As are the best components. And Greg Lemond, of course, is a cheat and a liar.

  • Stevo

    Being close friends with or otherwise intimately involved with someone certainly does not mean you know all their secrets. Also, the fact that the book was banned does not mean that what was in it was true. And as for “comes back from … and wins … tours”, who knows? It seems highly unlikely, but who’s to say it couldn’t happen? There’s a first time for everything.

    There is a difference between suspecting something or thinking it seems very likely, and actually knowing it.

  • Snark Attack

    That is worse? You have some odd values.

  • Snark Attack

    And one of the worst people who ever climbed on a bike.

  • Snark Attack

    Phil is still trying to spin it to protect Lance. So little of what Livestrong does or did was to actually “fight cancer”. And Phil is only talking about the doping and not the way that Lance went after those who told the truth. I have lost a lot of respect for Phil over the years from his blind support of Lance to his criticism of non skinny tire bike events at the Olympics. I thought that Phil was better than this.

  • Tim packer

    Stevo.. Liggett has been in cycling for 40 plus years.. He’s travelled all over the world following bike races and he is very close friends with that other liar Paul sherwin.. Paul sherwin was part of the Motorola setup in the 90s when epo was starting to be used by Armstrong and Motorola.. Do you honestly think these 2 commentators with years of knowledge didn’t realise some thing was happening!!! Then Armstrong comes back from cancer wins 7 tours in a row and you say to me .. ” how do you know liggett DIDNT know” are you really that nieve and what about the book L.A confidential .. The book Armstrong got banned from being printed in English.. And you ask me how did liggett NOT know.. Wake up please !!!

  • Aidan

    Bizarre comment…in the extreme.

  • Vick Carter

    Miguel Indurain – The benchmark.

  • Josh Tambini

    Really? Even Paul Sherwen’s palmarès would beat his!

  • Brendan Power

    Interesting comment that, “…you will do whatever is necessary ….”. Obviously, it is not possible to generalise in that way so I can only assume you are referring to yourself.

  • Andrew Bairsto

    Not to much difference with top riders today then, it is the same in walks of life when you get to the top you will do whatever is necessary to stay there.

  • Andrew Bairsto

    Just like today’s riders except it is more sopishcated to beat the testers if you think they don not dope and always have then you must be in a dream world.

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    Absolutely, and I’d be surprised if Phil didn’t read it at the time.

  • Le fig roll

    Yep the whole lance epo bullying thing is, unfortunate. What is FAR worse is the Americanisation of Phil an Paul’s commentary. Prize money quoted in dollars, traffic islands aren’t roundabouts they are ‘circles’ and countless other subliminal twist towards the US. Itv4 blatantly chasing the the American dollar and That’s armstrongs fault too.

  • Stevo

    Sounds bizarre. I haven’t read the book though (the gentleman never really interested me particularly). Presumably it contains fairly convincing evidence then?

  • Derek Biggerstaff

    Well he might have read “LA Confidential” which laid it all out so convincingly that only an utter Armstrong fanboy would have failed to be convinced. Liggett was still Armstrong’s principal cheerleader for years after this was published.

  • Stevo

    So how was Liggett supposed to know he was doping?

  • Jamie Wire

    great classics rider who doped to win bigger prizes

  • Dom Lucarelli

    After Marco Pantani…

  • Aidan

    No excuse for the way that Armstrong maliciously ruined peoples’ lives who questioned him or stood in his way. Ruthless and meglomaniac behaviour.

  • Tim packer

    Phill liggett.. You’re a joke .. You say you didn’t know Armstrong was doping!! You’ve probably been in the cycling world now for 40+ years and you’ve got the nerve to say ” oh I’m so surprised I had no idea what was happening ” so what this doper raised millions for cancer!! he could of done that WITHOUT being a doper!!! And what about all the evidence that was brought up BEFORE Armstrong was stripped of his titles .. And you say liggett didn’t know!!!!

  • Chris Williams

    Agree

  • Andrew Bairsto

    One of the best riders who ever climbed on a bike.