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Lance Armstrong to ride in 2010, for better or for worse

Text by Emmanuel VERSACE

Latest update : 2009-07-22

The seven-time Tour de France winner says he will be participating in the gruelling cycling race in 2010. The news, according to sports journalist Pierre Ballester, is testimony to the growing role of sports business in cycling.

US cycling champion Lance Armstrong, 37, chose his Twitter account to announce the news that he intended to participate in the 2010 Tour de France. While the news was applauded by the leading French sports daily, L'Equipe, coincidentally owned by ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation), the company organising the Tour de France, it raised eyebrows among critics of the seven-time Tour de France winner such as Pierre Ballester.

The former L'Equipe journalist and author of several books attacking Armstrong and the current state of international cycling believes that this return is likely to spoil the sporting spirit of France’s well-loved cycling race and instead hike up the profits of sports businesses.

FRANCE 24 - Lance Armstrong has announced that he will take part in the 2010 Tour de France. Does that surprise you?

Pierre Ballester
– No. Nothing and nobody can stop the hegemony of Lance Armstrong. Neither the UCI (Union cycliste internationale) nor ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation), the Tour de France organisers. It proves that they make fun of the sporting spirit of the Tour de France. If they were bold enough to defend the values of the sport, they would refuse to accept Armstrong once again. But, in a reflection of our current societal values, sport has turned into just another means of making profit. Lance Armstrong’s return will further harm the credibility of a sport credited with the thesis, ‘I am a cheater, I stay and mock the world.’

F24 - Lance Armstrong will be nearly 39 years old in 2010. What is he trying to prove? Can he win the Tour de France again?

P. B.
– In terms of the sport, he cannot win. Right now in the Tour de France, the only chance of victory is if Alberto Contador fails a dope test, something that none of the riders are protected from.

F24 – However, the American is just one minute 37 seconds behind Contador, which is not so bad…

P. B. – For Lance Armstrong, being second is like being the last. He’s obsessed by victory.

F24 – Then why is he returning?

P. B. – He cannot win sportingly, but he can win politically. He needs the Tour de France to promote his foundation. His ambition is to become the Bruce Willis of cancer. And for this, he needs to return. 

F24 – Can we envisage that he will return with his own team, under his foundation’s name?

P. B. – Lance Armstrong has a psychological edge over the participants, the organisers, the sporting authorities, everyone. That he will return with his own team is completely possible. He needs to standardise his presence on the Tour de France, as a participant or sports director in order to, once again, retake control, to the detriment of the sport. The Tour de France is losing its integrity.


Date created : 2009-07-22