by James McMahon
Lance Armstrong never had the cycling ability to win a ‘clean’ Tour de France, according to Sunday Times journalist David Walsh.
Walsh was speaking to Pat Kenny on RTÉ Radio in the aftermath of Armstrong’s interview with Oprah Winfrey where the Texan admitted to doping offences for each of his seven Tour de France victories.
"My feeling from a long way back was that the guy was doping," said Walsh.
"I knew him to be a liar and a bully. I’m glad all the stuff has come out – but I wasn’t waiting for it. People will say that Walsh got it right there – but I never felt that I was saying anything wrong about Armstrong.
"In years to come when people reflect on my journalistic career I would like to think that the work I did in exposing Armstrong will be among the things mentioned.
"I feel glad for the witnesses that gave me my story. They are now seen as truth tellers after been bullied and vilified for years."
Asked about Armstrong's ability as a rider and what level he would have attained if he had not gone down the road of using performance enhancers, the response was blunt. "My view from day one was that Lance Armstrong was never going to win the Tour de France without the use of drugs."
Walsh continued: "He rode the race four times in the 90s before he mastered a proper doping programme and his best finish in those four years was 36th. He actually didn’t complete the other three."
"He never gave us a sense back then that he was physiologically suited to the demands of the race" - David Walsh
"He participated in 13 mountain stages in this period and did not come anywhere near the leaders at the finish line. He never gave us a sense back then that he was physiologically suited to the demands of the race.
“Many of the greats of the Tour won the race at the first time of asking, like Bernard Hinault, Eddie Merckx and Jacques Anquetil.
"They were all young when they triumphed and they didn’t need four chances to suddenly discover they were great Tour de France riders.
“I believe if Lance Armstrong was riding in an era when there wasn’t blood doping products – transfusions were not being used or EPO did not exist – he wouldn’t have come within a million miles of winning the Tour.
“Whereas the ‘old drugs’ made the man that best that he could be – these ‘new drugs’ created a different man. It was that difference that Lance Armstrong benefited from."
In speaking to Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong made the claim that the Tour de France could not be won without been on drugs. Walsh rubbishes that conclusion.
“It’s a ridiculous comment.
"Indeed, thinking about it makes me realise that journalism has failed the Tour de France. Many in my profession describe the race as inhuman.
“The riders would pick up on that and say that they are then entitled to take whatever measures they like to make it bearable. The race is not inhuman!
"Paul Kimmage rode the race clean. All you do is ride the race slower. You may not achieve the speeds of the dopers, but who cares!"