Lance Armstrong’s return to the Tour de France is set, and even though it’s simply a charity ride, not everyone took it as welcome news. Union Cycliste Internationale president Brian Cookson calls the disgraced cyclist’s planned ride “disrespectful,” according to Reuters. Armstrong plans to ride a leg of the route a day before the race to raise money for a leukemia charity.
“Lance Armstrong riding all or some of the route one day before the race, I can’t think of better words than disrespectful and inappropriate to the Tour de France, the current riders, the UCI, and anti-doping,” Cookson told reporters on Tuesday at a sports industry meeting in London. “The charity justification was used quite a lot throughout his career, and that got us into all sorts of a mess, which is well documented. It looks like Lance was persuaded into it, and if he was, it’s not a good judgment. I think he would be well-advised not to take part in that.”
Armstrong responded on Tuesday. “I’m honored and humbled to have been invited by legendary footballer and fellow cancer survivor Geoff Thomas to accompany him on parts of his ride around France,” he wrote in an email to Outside. “Since my own diagnosis I’ve been 100 [percent] committed to fighting this dreadful disease that affects millions and that holds true today.”
Thomas, a former soccer player and fellow cancer survivor, defended his decision to invite Armstrong to participate. “At first he was quite suspicious, but I worked on him, told him about what the charity does, and he was intrigued by it,” Thomas told Cycling Weekly. “What I saw was somebody who was frustrated he couldn’t do that type of work with LiveStrong anymore … I knew I’d get a reaction from people who may have not looked too deep into the story. I believe the positives will outweigh that as we go on.”
While Cookson disagrees with the decision, he admitted that he has no authority to stop Armstrong from participating in the ride, according to the Guardian. “Lance Armstrong can ride his bike around France as often as he likes; it’s got nothing to do with me or the UCI,” he said.