Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong said Thursday he was “not surprised” that 18 leading riders in the 1998 Tour de France have been named by the French Senate as having taken the blood-boosting agent EPO.
The American said “virtually all of us” broke doping rules after the French Senate released a report saying 18 riders, including the top two finishers in the 1998 Tour, Italy’s Marco Pantani and Germany’s Jan Ullrich, had tested positive for EPO.
An additional 13 riders were named as having suspicious samples.
Armstrong told www.cyclingnews.com: “My initial reaction is that I am not surprised. As I have said, it was an unfortunate era for all of us and virtually all of us broke the rules, and lied about it.”
The results also revealed Armstrong tested positive for EPO in 1999.
Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour titles for doping offences but no action has been taken against the late Pantani and Ullrich, who have retained their podium positions from 1998.
The German, however, was found guilty of doping by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2012 and stripped of his results from 2005 until his retirement in 2007.
Although he claimed when retiring that he had “never once cheated as a cyclist” he finally owned up a month ago to his indiscretions.
He added: “If we don’t come together, have the conversation and draw a line in the sand and then move on, we’re all screwed.”
Earlier Thursday, newly-retired Australian cyclist Stuart O’Grady admitted using EPO before the 1998 Tour.
The confession comes just three days after the 39-year-old Olympic gold medallist and 17-time Tour rider announced his retirement from the sport.
O’Grady, a former track cyclist who won medals at three Olympics, including gold in the Madison at the 2004 Athens Games, took the first of his four career Tour stage wins that year in a race overshadowed by the Festina doping scandal.
The Australian Olympic Committee reacted swiftly to the report, calling for his immediate resignation from its Athletes’ Commission.