Armstrong 'in the past': Tour de France organiser

LEEDS, United Kingdom (AFP) - Tour de France organiser Christian Prudhomme said on Thursday that disgraced rider Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour titles because of doping, "was already in the past".

Mr Prudhomme added that it was a surprise that Armstrong had given a television interview, to be broadcast at 0200 GMT on Friday (10am on Friday, Singapore time), in which he reportedly admitted doping.

"No one could have imagined only a few weeks ago that Lance Armstrong would make his confession publicly, that he would confess in public to having been doped," he said.

"It's obviously something very important but I can't say more than that, I don't know more than you. I don't know what he'll say. For us, Lance Armstrong is already in the past."

The International Cycling Union (UCI) late last year effectively erased Armstrong from the cycling history books when it decided not to appeal sanctions imposed on the Texan rider by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).

A damning USADA report, including hundreds of pages of eyewitness testimony, emails, financial records and laboratory analysis of blood samples, said Armstrong helped orchestrate the most sophisticated doping programme in the history of sport.

In his first interview since Armstrong was shorn of his Tour titles, recorded Monday with Oprah Winfrey, the United States (US) television icon said she believed "the most important questions" were asked and that Armstrong provided answers "that people around the world have been waiting to hear".

Armstrong's choice of Winfrey as a confessor is a stunning reversal for a man who was notoriously aggressive in denying doping accusations for more than a decade, vilifying those who challenged him.

"The Tour de France has been getting better for several years now," added Mr Prudhomme when asked about the race's history of drug scandals. "What is going on at the moment is part of the past.

"We are starting with a clean slate and we have to get to the end of that slate. It's not just a subject that affects cycling. This is something that affects many other sports as well."

Mr Prudhomme, speaking in Leeds as he announced the start dates for the 2014 Tour de France, added: "Although this has all happened in the past 20 years, we are looking forward to the future when things will be much cleaner, bearing in mind this is something that affects other sports.

"Cycling has without doubt cheated a lot in the past without any doubt. But for several years now it has made enormous efforts in this struggle and we need to continue those efforts."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.