WASHINGTON: Lance Armstrong, in a rare interview, says he still considers himself a Tour de France champion despite his spectacular fall from grace for using performance-enhancing drugs.
Armstrong — stripped of his record seven Tour titles — told Outside magazine he thinks his fellow competitors would agree he genuinely won cycling’s greatest event.
“Yes, I feel that I won the races,” he said in what Outside billed as his first public appearance since his January 2013 doping confession to talk show diva Oprah Winfrey following years of denials.
“I know that is not a popular answer, but the reality is that … it was just a messy time,” he said, referring to widespread doping in cycling.
“It was basically an arms race, and we all played ball that way.”
He added it would be “a mistake, and it would be disrespectful to the sport, to leave seven years empty” and fail to recognize a Tour winner between 1999 and 2005.
“If I didn’t win, then somebody needs to win,” he said.
“Of course I’m going to say I won — but ask the guys (fellow Tour de France competitors) that went and suffered with you and ask them, ‘Did he win?’
I think I know what they’d say.”
No longer racing, or associated with the Livestrong cancer charity he founded, Armstrong said he still bikes “occasionally” but runs “more than anything” in order to keep fit.
As for what his legacy will be, he said: “I don’t know. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that … Honestly, I have no idea what the future holds.”
Outside posted the interview — conducted earlier this month — late Wednesday on its website, alongside a how-to video in which Armstrong shows the correct way to change a bike’s tire tube.