A decade before the emergence of Lance Armstrong, Greg LeMond rose to prominence as America's first mainstream cyclist.
LeMond burst onto the national scene with his victory at the Tour de France in 1986, becoming the first American to win cycling's most prestigious event. Almost killed in a hunting accident a year later, LeMond recovered to return to cycling and, in 1989, grabbed the Tour de France's most dramatic win, when he used a blistering final-day ride to overtake France's Laurent Fignon to win the event by eight seconds -- the closest finish ever. LeMond cemented his status in the cycling world when he repeated as champ in 1990.
“ If [Armstrong's] clean, it's the greatest comeback. And if he's not, then it's the greatest fraud. ” — Greg LeMond
Now, as Armstrong is threatening to claim his record sixth straight Tour de France title, LeMond speaks with ESPN's Outside the Lines in his first public interview since his 2001 statements questioning Armstrong's relationship with a controversial Italian doctor now on trial for doping.
"If [Armstrong's] clean, it's the greatest comeback. And if he's not, then it's the greatest fraud," LeMond said.
LeMond also discussed the aftermath of his 2001 statements, including receiving an angry phone call from Armstrong. In the call, LeMond claims that Armstrong said that doping was rampant in cycling and threatened to spread rumors that LeMond doped as a rider.
"He basically said 'I could find 10 people that will say you took EPO,' " LeMond said. "He basically said, 'You know, come on, everybody's done it,' basically kind of like 'hey everybody, EPO's fairly common.' "
LeMond also claims that Armstrong's camp threatened his business interests.
"The week after, I got multiple people that were on Lance ... Lance's camp, basically saying 'you better be quiet,' and I was quiet for three years," LeMond said. "I have a business ... I have bikes that are sold ... and I was told that my sales might not be doing too well if ... just the publicity, the negative publicity."
Reached in France, Armstrong expressed regret about LeMond's assertions.
"Greg's comments are unfortunate because Greg was an idol of mine, but was an idol of everybody in this race," he said. ... This isn't the first time. It's been four years that the shots have been lobbed across the Atlantic when we are over here trying to do good work. We've proven time in and time out that we were clean."
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