The new boss of the Tour de France minced few words to disguise his unhappiness with American pro rider Lance Armstrong. Jean-Etienne Amaury referred to Armstrong (in a double negative) as an embarrassment.
Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has been an embarrassment to the French race, the new head of the Tour's organizer said in an interview Saturday.
L'Equipe quoted Jean-Etienne Amaury as saying that Armstrong has not always been good for the Tour.
"We can't say that he has not embarrassed the Tour de France, as he has had a quite a complicated history with it," Amaury said.
The 32-year-old Amaury was named president of the Amaury Sport Organization earlier this week, replacing Patrice Clerc, who was known for his hard line against doping. Some observers interpreted the change as a sign that the ASO intended to soften its position on doping.
Amaury, however, insisted the fight against doping remains a top priority.
"The Tour de France's position has always been very strict and that will not change in the years to come," he said. ASO "is quite conscious of the fact that doping undermines cycling's credibility."
Asked whether a comeback by the 37-year-old Armstrong, who retired in 2005 after winning his seventh consecutive title, would throw suspicion on the race, Amaury said that "today's tools in the fight against doping are different."
Armstrong, long know for his aggressive defense, took a swing back at the French. To the BBC:
The American, who has always denied allegations of drug use, said: "I won the Tour seven straight years and was never found to be guilty of doping.
"Not to mention that my team of 25 riders over those seven years was also never found to be positive.
"The last time I checked, I won the Tour seven straight years and was never once found to be guilty of doping despite seven years of intense scrutiny," Armstrong said in a statement.
"We won clean and fair. Where's the embarrassment in that?"
The 37-year-old added in a statement: "Also, according to industry standards, the TV ratings, worldwide media impressions, spectators along the route, and global sponsorships (of the Tour) were at an all time high.
"It comes as an issue of distraction. While I love the event and France's people, I cannot accept this sort of grandstanding."
That controversial 2005 EPO sits out there like the 1000 pound doping gorilla in the locker room.
Here is the controversial issue:
In 2005, L'Equipe reported that six B samples belonging to the Texan contained the banned substance EPO - a blood-boosting hormone that enhances endurance.
Drug-testing protocol dictates that blood or urine is divided into A and B samples and both must show traces of the banned substance for a test to be declared positive.
An independent investigation conducted by Dutch lawyer Emile Vrijman, cleared Armstrong of doping and accused the French lab at Chatenay-Malabry of misconduct.
But Vrijman's report failed to satisfy everybody - World Anti-Doping president Dick Pound being a notable detractor - and last week the head of the French anti-doping agency Pierre Bordry rejected Armstrong's claim that tests on the samples could not be trusted.