CAUTERETS (France) • Lance Armstrong has said that he "feels bad" that Chris Froome is having to answer questions surrounding doping during the Tour de France - 24 hours after he posted seemingly ambiguous tweets when asked if he thought the race leader and his team were clean.
The 43-year-old, who was stripped of his seven Tour titles in 2012 and given a life ban from the sport for doping, admitted that it is "his fault" that cyclists like Froome face constant questioning, but defended his tweets.
In the wake of Froome's stage-10 victory on Tuesday, the American wrote: "Clearly Froome/(Richie) Porte/Sky are very strong. Too strong to be clean? Don't ask me, I have no clue."
Armstrong yesterday insisted, however, that he did not mean to insinuate that Froome and his team-mates are doping.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Armstrong said his tweets were "totally transparent and honest" but added: "I know what that is like for a guy like Chris to be in the middle of the Tour, to deal with the constant questions, and to be fair and to be honest, a lot of that is my fault.
"A lot of people ask those questions, they see his style, they see his performance, they see the time gaps, they see the cadence and they think, 'This guy is just another one of them'.
"I feel bad about that. Whoever is winning the Tour de France in 2015 should not be answering questions about someone who won it 10 or 15 years ago... that's just not fair."
Froome maintained his grip on the yellow jersey after Wednesday's 11th stage, which was won by Tinkoff-Saxo's Rafal Majka, and leads BMC Racing's Tejay van Garderen by 2min 52sec.
Such a gap at this stage has not been seen since 2006 and the speculation that Froome could be doping grew on Wednesday with the release of a second video apparently containing leaked, confidential performance data from the 30-year-old rider.
Although the data indicates nothing obviously incriminating, Froome's doubters claim that his heart rate was improbably low.
Asked about the sceptics, Froome said on Wednesday: "Those people should come watch us train, see how I lead my life."
But his team also faced fresh questions over their recruitment policy following revelations that a member of the staff worked for the notorious US Postal team and helped Armstrong to his first Tour de France victory.
It emerged on Wednesday that Peter Verbeken was a soigneur (carer) for Postal, including on the 1999 Tour. The Belgian has spent the past three years at Sky, first as a carer for riders before switching to service manager last year.
Sky insisted that Verbeken, 49, had worked only as a freelancer for Postal, though sources insist that he was part of the American team for at least one season.
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TOUR DE FRANCE
Stage 13: StarHub Ch212, 8.15pm