Armstrong discusses recent scandals, says 'doping is a global problem'

Updated: June 20, 2007, 5:06 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

RENO, Nev. -- Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong said cycling has suffered a "black eye" from ongoing disclosures about doping scandals. So have a number of sports, he said, so he doesn't know how it will affect interest in this year's big race.

"Doping is a global problem. It's a sports problem, and it's never a good thing, either through positive tests or admissions," Armstrong told reporters during a teleconference.

"It is a black eye, but I suspect that there are a lot of sports out there with black eyes, and it's just something that we as a community or global community, sports community, have to work through," he said.

Armstrong attempted to discredit another effort to portray him as part of the problem. Another book that intertwines the two, "From Lance to Landis," is due in the coming weeks.

"Predictably, on the eve of the Tour de France, I will be the subject of a repeated, baseless attack in yet another unobjective book by David Walsh," Armstrong said in a statement released Wednesday. "Trying to jump on the bandwagon of current publicity surrounding cycling, Walsh now issues a recycled version of two earlier French books that were likewise founded upon a demonstrably false string of sensational, untrue and fabricated allegations.

"This latest attack will be no different than the first two -- a sensationalized attempt to cash in on my name and sully my reputation by people who have demonstrated a consistent failure to adhere to the most basic journalistic standards or ethics."

Armstrong, who has repeatedly denied allegations he used banned substances, acknowledged television ratings were down last for the Tour de France but didn't know if it was related to the scandal.

"You saw a drop-off in interest for some reason, really around the world. So even television numbers in France, Germany, Spain and Italy and then here in the U.S. [were down] for whatever reason," he said.

"So I don't know what will necessarily happen this year, although I saw that the viewership and the interest in the Tour of Italy was up significantly amid all this stuff. So it's tough to say."

Armstrong made his comments late Monday during the teleconference promoting his cancer-fighting foundation, which will be the sole beneficiary of charitable contributions at the 18th annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe July 13-15. He will play in the pro-am tourney on July 12, but not the three-day competition carried by ESPN and NBC Sports. Armstrong said he plans to be in London for the start of the race, return to the U.S. for the golf tourney and other matters, then will consider returning to France depending how the American contingent is faring.

"We'll see how the race plays out, and whether or not we go back to Paris, I don't know," he said.

American Levi Leipheimer is among those with a shot at winning the race, Armstrong said. He said he was convinced at the beginning of the season Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan would win the race but now he's not so sure after Vinokourov failed to live up to expectations with his showing in the mountains last week at the Dauphine Libere.

"I think as far as the race goes that it's wide open. It's really anybody's guess," Armstrong said.

"Before last week the odds were that Vinokourov would be the winner. I think he had the best chances, but he didn't perform well in the high mountains, in the Dauphine," he said.

"I don't think our guys were particularly that great there, either, but I think they're on a good path to be in top form for the race," he said.

Armstrong will be making his second appearance in the celebrity golf tourney's pro-am at Lake Tahoe next month. He said he's not good enough to play in the competition through the weekend, typically shooting more than 100.

"For somebody who doesn't golf much, it's not that fun to tee off in front of a group of people," he said.

"I'm a big believer in mulligans. I'll use as many as they give me," he said.

Armstrong, who overcame testicular cancer in the 1990s to become the second American to win the Tour de France, said the publicity for the Lance Armstrong Foundation is invaluable.

The foundation has raised more than $180 million in its 10 years of existence, he said.

"I'm still humbled by the [money raised]," he said. "We can be proud of the progress we've made."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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