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July 24, 2004

Hampsten voices support for LeMond

VeloNews | An open letter from Andy Hampsten

If you're a Lance Armstrong-era cycling fan, you may not be familiar with Andy Hampsten, and that's a shame.

If your only frame of reference for LeMond is as a kind of precursor to Lance Armstrong, I suppose you could think of Hampsten as the era's Tyler Hamilton. He was the first American to win a stage at the top of Alpe d'Huez, and he won a legendary, snow-blind stage through the Gavia Pass in his 1988 win at the Giro d'Italia. He also won the Tour of Switzerland and was best young rider at the Tour de France in 1986, LeMond's first win, when he was 4th overall, a placing he repeated in 1992.

Hampsten has sent an open letter in support of Greg LeMond to VeloNews. Hampsten was a 2nd-year pro when he rode with LeMond on the La Vie Claire team, and was a veteran with the Motorola team when Armstrong appeared.

Hampsten is dismayed that LeMond's comments have been taken as directed primarily at Armstrong, and that people are, as a result, ignoring LeMond's bigger point, that cycling is still a sport "rotten with drugs:"

Most of us will probably need to put aside our Tour time emotions and resist making the judgment that Greg is trying to gain something personal or is simply jealous of being eclipsed as the dominant American cyclist.

I saw Greg race as a champion through the '80s, and into the '90s when the cycling community as a whole turned a blind eye towards doping and consciously ignored the onslaught of EPO in the peloton.

Like Greg, I, too, saw what I believe were the effects of EPO when it entered pro cycling in the early '90s. In the first years it grew from a few individuals reaping obscene wins from exploiting its "benefits," to entire teams relying on it, essentially forcing all but the most gifted racers to either use EPO to keep their place in cycling, quit or become just another obscure rider in the group.

To those who say it's the wrong time to talk about doping, and that any such discussion distracts from the training and achievements of Lance Armstrong, Hampsten replies:

Why now? Remember that while the Tour de France is the pinnacle of cycling, it is also the leading force in fighting drugs in cycling. Right now, while public attention is still on the Tour, is a good time to address the problem of doping.

Hampsten notes that, like LeMond, he sponsors a junior racing team, and also that LeMond took a significant business risk in discussing Armstrong, the goose that lays the golden eggs for Trek bikes, the parent company of the LeMond line.

Dr. Michele Ferrari is known to have supported the use of EPO to increase his riders' performances. In '94, while his riders dominated the Ardennes Classics, he publicly ridiculed making rules against EPO saying it was safe to use and should not be made illegal in cycling. I believe behavior like this and the use of these products should not be tolerated. Violators should receive meaningful bans from the sport, bans that significantly outweigh any perceived benefits.

Many aspiring racers have confronted drug use as they rose through the ranks. Unfortunately, their silent answer to this insanity is often to quit racing at this level. Otherwise, they risk succumbing to the conventional wisdom that "since everyone takes drugs to be competitive, you should too." This must not continue to be the choice facing promising young racers.

Now, in his retirement, Greg LeMond is fighting to bring racing back to a natural level of honest riders racing to their limits and living a long life to talk about it. I am writing to support him in this fight.

I know a lot of people feel very passionately on either side of this issue, but to ignore the opinions of insiders and champions like Hampsten and LeMond is to stick your head in the sand. They are tuned in to the issue in a way that few of us could ever be.

Posted by Frank Steele on July 24, 2004 in Doping, Top Stories | Permalink


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I see your list of books on the right. Peeps may also want to check out Tim Moore's 'French Revolutions' which amounts to a fairly interesting (if purposely entertaining) history of the Tour intermixed with a very funny account of his bumbling effort to ride the long race.


Posted by: Jarrett at Jul 24, 2004 9:28:58 PM

lance death threats:

Posted by: joe@yahoo.com at Jul 24, 2004 11:04:43 PM

Actually, it was Eric Breukink who won the stage over the Gavia. But Andy did don the Maglia Rosa that day.

Posted by: horscategorie at Jul 25, 2004 3:15:34 AM

I stand corrected: Breukink did indeed win that stage by 7 seconds. Sorry.

Posted by: Frank at Jul 25, 2004 10:24:33 AM

to lance's critics: show some solid evidence, or shut the hell up. it's just that damned simple...

re: the earlier comment: moore's FRENCH REVOLUTIONS is a great read...

Posted by: mike at Jul 25, 2004 11:40:13 PM

We just need some evidence!!!!!
Lance just rulezzzzzz

Posted by: Jan Bremse at Jul 26, 2004 8:21:44 AM

There's a crucial difference between LeMond's recent statements and Hampsten's open letter -- if what is posted here from the Hampsten letter is complete, Hampsten is making a much needed general statement about the problems of doping in cycling; LeMond went on to effectively accuse Armstrong of doping. Both make vitally important remarks about the threat doping poses to cycling; both make much needed criticisms of people known to have been involved in it -- but LeMond this summer has hurt a good cause by singling out one athlete without proof.

Posted by: DB at Jul 26, 2004 10:04:01 AM

I used to admire LeMond but after his recent comments that actually accuse Armstrong of "hiding something" I can only conclude it is totally "sour grapes". I am disappointed in LeMond, I used to think he was a class act but he has proven otherwise.

Posted by: W Eaton at Jul 26, 2004 10:16:53 AM

I grew up reading the agate pages of the daily paper to see how LeMond fared in France before he won his first tour. I have an autographed photo, and was truly proud of his exploits.

Now, I am completely disappointed - to the point of wishing Hinault won his 6th and that the UCI disallowed aerobars. And not because I am a psycho-armstrong-hero-worshipper, either.

I won't begrudge LeMond criticizing Armstrong's association with Ferrari. He was right in doing so. Then again, I don't blame Armstrong for calling LeMond to confront him as to what his reasons were.

But the interview I heard on ESPN was simply pathetic. All hype, no substance. When someone begins a sentence with "He basically said..." you may as well throw it away, whatever follows is useless. I am surprised ESPN aired it.

If I get into it with someone, I go over that conversation repeatedly, re-scripting what they said, and what my response could have been.

That said, I would think that after three years, Greg would have been able to state his case plainly, carefully noting that he isn't trying to single an individual out, that he is simply interested in cleaning up the sport. Instead, he whines that someone (ie Armstrong) needs to reveal their dirty secrets.

He missed it by a mile. Poor guy must have really gotten his feelings hurt by Armstrong - I am surprised he didn't have an emotional breakdown when the Badger attacked.

If these feeble callouts are all that Greg can muster after three long years, I have to question his intelligence - at the minimum, he has no communication skills at all.

And now, LeMond will get his just reward - people will ultimately question his performances, wonder how he was the wunderkind who had the fastest TT ever, how he came back from a near fatal accident. What a damn shame. Anyone interested in that autographed photo can have it for free. It's yours.

Posted by: pazen at Jul 27, 2004 12:31:42 AM

the question we need answering is how deep is the use of drugs in cycling and even more importantly what effect does it have on the results.

Even if lance is on drugs (I doubt this BTW but wouldn't be surprised either way ) how much would it detract from the achievement ?

if all previous champions were also hitters? or the majority of the Peloton?

if we discover a minority are users and the results are concentrated in that group then i claim foul if there is litle correlation and or everyone is on drugs its rather moot apart from the health issue.

Which comes to the thing of it we need to know the figures on drug use for the riders to make there own judgement people like ferrari must have records even if names are 'hidden".

you want to cure the sport (or any sport) of bahhed substance abuse the first step is allow them to use them! a 1-2 seadon amnesty to collect the data is what the issue needs... all other pro con arguments are meaningless... first step get the data


Posted by: boris at Jul 27, 2004 10:48:06 AM

Lemond's statements try to make Lance guilty by association. Lance has never failed a drug test (unlike Tyler Hamilton ...) I don't know what Lemonds motivation is, but it's sad to see. As for Hampsten, He's more than a bit of a jerk. Read Bob Roll's books BobkeII. Hampsten won the Giro in 88 and according to Roll, is the only winner of a major tour, ever, not to share his winnings with the team. Sad, Selfish and more.

Posted by: ShermanPotter,LTC USA (RET) at Oct 12, 2004 1:27:06 PM

"to lance's critics: show some solid evidence, or shut the hell up. it's just that damned simple...

re: the earlier comment: moore's FRENCH REVOLUTIONS is a great read..."

@002: Greg Lemond criticizes Armstrong fro his association with Dr Ferrari.

Ferrari who in the mid-late nineties was the center of EPO doping, and made statements about banning it being ridiculous.

Amstrong answers Lemon's citique in 2002 with "When I see Ferrari convicted in a court for this, I will reevaluate my use of Dr Ferrari"

2003: Italian biker Simeone testifies against Ferrari, and claims he has prescribes both steroids, and EPO.

Since Armstrong has access to news, like anyone else, he woudl know that Ferrari by own admission was a dope doctor.

The defence of "I'll reconsider when he's caught" is not good enough.

Do we have irrefutable evidence that Armstrong has cheated? No. But we have very strong circumstential evidence that indicates a very high likelyhood of him having cheated. Absolutely. The way he has handled his association with Ferrari is what tips the weights. There have been other incidents as well, in the past. Even if Armstrong was innocent, they way he has dealt with this controversy i sthe way of something who has gotten away with it, and would encourage young bikers to do the same, rather than one who is genuinely concerned with ridding the sport of doping.

Posted by: obs at Aug 26, 2005 2:46:45 PM

Heros no longer exist in sport.

Posted by: shawn at Apr 11, 2006 9:28:43 PM

Bonds, McGuire, Armstrong...say it ain't so...I stand by LeMond, the greatest US cyclist ever.

Posted by: ajax at Feb 8, 2007 9:52:06 AM

Okay, taking what LeMond and Hampsten say as true:

"Like Greg, I, too, saw what I believe were the effects of EPO when it entered pro cycling in the early '90s. In the first years it grew from a few individuals reaping obscene wins from exploiting its "benefits," to entire teams relying on it, essentially forcing all but the most gifted racers to either use EPO to keep their place in cycling, quit or become just another obscure rider in the group."

Both LeMond and Hampsten were successful cyclists, thus they should fall under suspicion based on the fact that they can climb better than the peloton. Their accomplishments are incredible, especially given the fact that "few individuals" and "entire teams" were doping. How does one win 3 Tours? Lemond's performances, riding away from the peloton alone, raise suspicion. If Armstrong falls under suspicion despite 0 positives, so must Lemond.

Posted by: Cory at Jul 27, 2007 12:50:47 PM

You say there is no proof?!? But there are proofs! Blood samples taken during is first winning tour in 1999 showed traces of EPO when tested in 2005 by a certified laboratory. Of course Lance Armstrong dismissed them. He was offered recenlty a counter expertise to prove his good faith, but he declined. Another proof he's a huge fraud.

Intimidation, profeetering, doping. These are Lance Armstrong methods. I used to be a big fan of cycling. Now i have hard time watching races, because Armstrong made so much harm to this sport.

Posted by: alain at Jul 21, 2009 1:14:49 PM

I have no problem with Hampsten's generalizations about drug use, but to ask that anyone try to see Lemond as simply a champion of fair play, and not a foaming at the mouth Armstrong detractor, is too much to ask. He's a complete sociopath. And for anyone to say that Armstrong did more harm than good for cycling, clean or not, is on drugs themselves. Or, a member of the French media.

Posted by: Al at Jul 24, 2009 12:40:35 AM

@ Cory,

For being so opinionated, you should back it up with some history and actual knowledge. EPO entered racing right around 1990, the year of Lemond's final victory.

In 1991, Lemond was wearing the rainbow jersey, and felt he was in his strongest form ever. Yet, riders who'd been dropped regularly by him and other past GC contenders were now blowing past him. He dropped out of that tour, and tried unsuccessfully again in 1992. He retired at what should have been the top of his game and form, because of doping.

Lance experienced similar frustrations in the mid-nineties. But he didn't quit. He hired Ferrari.

Lemond, as the first American to ever win the TdF, should get a bit more respect than what you offer. He and Hampsten are the giants, and all subsequent American cyclists have stood on their shoulders.

Posted by: Brian at Jul 27, 2010 1:48:30 PM

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