The former French racing cyclist Christophe Bassons, who was told to leave the Tour de France and "go home" by disgraced champion Lance Armstrong after speaking out about doping, said he did not feel bitter towards the American.
The 38-year-old Bassons, who was nicknamed "Mr Clean", said he had no regrets at all about his refusal to take performance-enhancing drugs that led to him being shunned by colleagues and effectively ended his racing career.
"I don't feel bitter at all. I think if you were to compare the situations today of both Lance Armstrong and myself you might ask who is the happiest, who is the most content, who feels the best about themselves and what they did? I certainly don't have any regrets," he told the Observer. "Lance Armstrong cannot be feeling very comfortable today."
Bassons earned the sort of celebrity that had eluded him on the road during the 1998 doping scandal that hit the French team, Festina. After a car-load of drugs were discovered en route to the team's riders during the Tour de France that year, it emerged that Bassons was the only member who had categorically refused to take any. During the Tour the following year, Bassons wrote a column in Le Parisien newspaper saying he was "shocked" by the performance of Armstrong, who had overcome cancer to reach the front of the peloton.
Later in the Alpe d'Huez stage, Bassons said Armstrong rode up to tell him it was "a mistake" to have spoken out and asked the Frenchman: "Why don't you leave, then?" Shortly afterwards Armstrong confirmed the conversation on French television, saying: "His accusations aren't good for cycling, for his team, for me, for anybody. If he thinks cycling works like that, he's wrong and he would be better off going home."
Later, racing with the Française des Jeux team, Bassons was shunned by fellow cyclists who refused to share their winning money with him. The then French sports minister Marie-George Buffet remarked: "What a strange role reversal. Rather than fighting against doping, they're fighting its opponent."
Bassons, who now works as a sports professor for the French ministry of sport and spends up to half of his time trying to prevent doping, said: "I'm not out to get him [Armstrong]. Lots of people today are talking about Lance Armstrong, but there were lots of people like him then and there were lots of people who would have been like him if they'd had the means to be. Perhaps he has regrets about what he has done. I don't have any regrets about what I did."
He added: "My career was not as a cyclist, my career is what I do now as a sports professor. I was lucky to have the physical qualities to cycle and I did so for six years. If I had wanted to continue, to shut up and continue as others did, I could have done so, but I didn't. A career like that didn't please me."
Asked if the outing of Armstrong had changed anything in cycling, Bassons said: "I don't think so. After the Festina scandal in 1998, perhaps doping on an individual basis changed, that's all. Nothing has changed. The products have changed and we can detect some we couldn't detect before, but the intention to cheat is always present. It's human nature."
He added: "I don't think this latest stuff changes very much and it doesn't affect my life. We've known about Lance Armstrong for some time. Today's not the first time it's come out, it's just that today he's facing legal action."
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