Comment: Lance Armstrong versus Le Monde
Lance Armstrong is still making headlines. And he still sells newspapers. In an exclusive interview with respected French broadsheet Le Monde and staff journalist Stephane Mandard, it looks like the Texan was stitched up in an otherwise reasonable interview.
At one point Armstrong was asked what he hoped would happen in any kind of Truth and Reconciliation process:
Mandard: Why are you ready to talk in front of a commission like this?
LA: The whole story hasn't been told. The USADA reasoned decision didn't give a full picture of what was going on in cycling from the end of the 1980s to the present day. It succeeded in ruining one man's life, but it didn't do any good in terms of benefitting cycling. What would I say to a commission like that? I'd sit down, I'd listen and I'd give honest answers to questions.
Mandard: And one of the questions might be: when you were racing, was it possible to perform with doping?
LA: That depends on the races that you wanted to win. Win the Tour de France? No. It would be impossible to win without doping. The Tour is an endurance-based event where oxygen is a limiting factor. So, to take one example from athletics, EPO isn't going to help a sprinter win a 100m race, but it would be a determining factor in a 10,000m race. It's clear."
The key point here was that Mandard asked Armstrong "when you were racing" which - somehow - the sports editor turned into a headline that read, in quote marks: "Le Tour de France? Impossible de gagner sans dopage."* Which, for anyone with any grasp of basic French will know, is not what Armstrong actually said.
So Le Monde got its shock-horror headline, caused a Twitter storm and Armstrong looks like he's pouring a bucket of sick on this Tour de France, confirming his status as pariah and casting doubt on the current crop of riders.
It's hard to see why cycling journalist Mandard and Le Monde would have manipulated an interview quote for any reason other sell some papers. Misquoting the bad guy to make him look worse than he already is? That's a bit low.
* "The Tour de France? Impossible to win without doping"