United Kingdom

Drug cheat Lance Armstrong could have won the Tour de France without drugs, commentator claims 

Disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong was so good he would have won the Tour de France without drugs, legendary commentator Phil Liggett claims.

The American doping cheat admitted in 2013 he systematically took performance-enhancing drugs for most of his career in an infamous tell-all interview with talk show host Oprah Winfrey.

Armstrong was the only cyclist to ever win seven consecutive titles between 1999 and 2005, which now have no official winner following the doping revelations.

Liggett, 77, didn't hesitate when asked if Armstrong could have won the world's most famous cycling race without drugs in his comeback from testicular cancer in 1996.

Disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong (pictured in 2002) won seven Tour de France titles before admitting to taking performance enhacing drugs during his career

'No question,' Liggett told Seven News. 'He was naturally just extremely good... Don’t forget he was racing against other drug users.'

Liggett claimed most of Armstrong's team were also forced to take drugs 'because Lance was exceptional'.

'When Lance realised that the Tour de France was drug-ridden, he told his team "we'll do it and we'll do it better than they do it",' he added.

'And if they didn't agree, they were off the team.'

Liggett fiercely defended the road cycling great when the doping allegations first emerged until Armstrong made the startling admission several years later.

He hadn't spoken to the disgraced champion since 2011 until two years ago while Armstrong was providing commentary for the Tour de France via American TV network NBC.

Commentator Phil Liggett (pictured) believes Armstrong was so good who would have won the Tour de France without drugs

Liggett doesn't hate Armstrong and still admires him for his US$600 million fundraising efforts for cancer. 

'I admired him for his achievements but I can't condone drug cheats, it's not for me, I just can't do that,' he said.

In a recent interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Liggett hailed Armstrong as 'probably the most gifted cyclist of his time' but admitted he was glad when they caught him.

'Drugs, as I always say, don't turn a donkey into a thoroughbred,' he said.

'They just make you 10 per cent better. But the mentality of Lance, that's why he beat cancer. He was so much stronger than the average person.'

Lance Armstrong salutes the crowd after winning the 2005 Tour de France for the seventh consecutive time following his battle with testicular cancer

Liggett doesn't hate Armstrong and still admires him for his US$600 million fundraising efforts for cancer

Liggett also opened up his awkward encounter with Armstrong while commentating together on the 2019 Tour de France.

The encounter came months after the sudden death of Liggett's long-time co-commentator and former cycling champion Paul Sherwen. 

'Lance came up in the break [and I said] 'Hi Lance',' he recalled. 

'He goes, 'Hi'. You'd think having read all the press reports on the way I'd been ripped apart just trying to defend him, he might have said, 'I'm sorry about all this mess, Phil'. Not a word.'

The Lance Armstrong timeline 

 1993: Wins world championship

1995: Wins Tour de France stage

1996: Diagnosed with testicular cancer and learns it has spread to his lungs, brain and abdomen

1999: Wins first of seven consecutive Tour de France titles. He tests positive for a corticosteroid but avoids sanction by showing a prescription

2000: Wins second Tour de France and an investigation into Armstrong using drugs ends

2002: Wins fourth consecutive Tour de France

2005: Wins seventh Tour de France

2008: Announced he was retiring

2009: Decided to come out of retirement and compete in Tour de France. He finishes in third place

2010: His former teammate Floyd Landis claims Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs

2011: He retires from cycling at 39-years-old

2013: Armstrong admits using performance-enhancing drug to Oprah Winfrey in an interview.

2015: He is forced to pay $10 million to a company in a fraud dispute

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