ADELAIDE, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Former Tour de France stage winner Stuart O‘Grady said he was “deceived, annoyed, frustrated” by Lance Armstrong’s doping confession on Friday after interrupting his preparations for the Tour Down Under to watch the American’s television interview.
The first race of the elite UCI pro tour season begins this weekend and there was only one topic of conversation at the village in Adelaide which houses the teams - Armstrong’s confessional broadcast with chat-show host Oprah Winfrey.
In it, the American ended years of vehement denial by finally coming clean and admitting he had cheated his way to a record seven Tour de France titles with systematic use of banned, performance-enhancing drugs.
“Lance deceived everybody on the planet, us included,” said Australian O‘Grady, 39, who now rides for the Greenedge Orica team.
”So obviously we all wanted to believe also he was winning the Tours clean. We are all athletes suffering through the mountains and you’d like to think that he was just training harder and working harder than we all were.
“But now it’s all come out...deceived, annoyed, frustrated. It’ll be interesting to see what he comes out in the second part and says but I don’t think anything is going to take that away.”
The second part of Armstrong’s confessional will be broadcast on Saturday Australian time and analysis of the first part of the interview continued throughout the day.
“It wasn’t a deep and sincere apology if that’s what we’re looking for, it certainly wasn’t that,” said cycling commentator Phil Liggett, who was once a staunch supporter of Armstrong and spoke at events organised by the American’s Livestrong charity.
”And, I really do feel that he has to name names. He doesn’t seem to realise the incredulous crime that he’s committed.
”It’s almost as if he thinks, well, nobody really noticed. But of course the world, it’s the biggest thing in sport we’ve ever seen.
“For Lance, as he said, it’ll go on for the rest of his life but we need to know how, why and with whom,” added the Briton, who has covered 40 Tours de France.
Liggett said some good could come out of the scandal.
“I think the best thing to come out of the whole business of Armstrong and his team is that it’s all in the open now and that the kids of today haven’t got to take needles to their arms to win bike races and that’s what’s most important,” he said.
Armstrong’s compatriot Tim Duggen said the culture in American cycling had already changed.
“For me in my generation it never was an option to dope,” the 30-year-old Team Saxo-Tinkoff rider said.
“It was always part of the mentality and the culture to race clean. So I hope Lance’s confession brings some closure to the matter and to the year and that now the focus can be on the current generation of riders who are doing it right.”
Armstrong launched his comeback at the 2009 Tour Down Under and returned to Australia for the following two years to compete in the race.
Race director Mike Turtur said that despite the scandal, the sport, and his event in particular, was strong enough to survive.
“We can’t change history, I mean what’s happened happened,” said Turtur.
“The race is big enough, strong enough and been around now for 15 years. I think the race is developed to a level now where it’s well known throughout the world and the riders enjoy coming here and I think we present a good product and I‘m just excited about the race moving forward.”
The Tour Down Under starts with a 51-km circuit race in Adelaide on Sunday and concludes on Jan. 27 after a total distance of 758.5 km over six stages.
Armstrong, meanwhile, faces the prospect of multi-million-dollar lawsuits but Liggett appealed for some perspective on the scandal.
“At the end of the day he’s cheated in a game,” he said. “He’s not a rapist, he’s not a murderer, so the sentences can’t possible be longer than for people of that tendency. And, so yes, if he comes clean then his sentence should be reduced.” (Writing by Nick Mulvenney in Melbourne, editing by Clare Fallon)