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  • Wed August 13 2008
  • Posted Aug 13, 2008
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR The Kansas City Star Greg LeMond was the first U.S. cyclist to win the Tour de France. Greg LeMonde talks about child sex abuse Greg LeMond shook hands, signed autographs and posed for pictures. It was after he’d given a speech at a luncheon at the Jack Reardon Civic Center in Kansas City, Kan., and he did all of this with a smile. LeMond, 47, spoke candidly about his past on Thursday. He talked about the good (becoming the first American to win the Tour de France) and the bad (being a victim of sexual abuse). He also spoke about the state of cycling, which has been plagued by doping scandals for at least the last decade. “(The scandals have) dramatically affected the sport,” said LeMond, a three-time Tour de France winner. However, LeMond says recent doping scandals like the one involving Floyd Landis, the 2006 Tour de France winner whose title was stripped for doping, have finally brought about some change in the sport. LeMond is encouraged by the testing that teams are performing on their own riders year-round. He’s also encouraged by the decision of 17 of the world’s top cycling teams to split from the ProTour, which was formed in 2004 by the International Cycling Union — which LeMond believes hasn’t done enough to crack down on doping. LeMond says he can see the change already. He watched this year’s Tour de France closely and noticed that it was different. Competitors were going slower and breathing harder, especially in comparison with the last 10 to 15 years, when he says racers looked as if they weren’t even feeling the pain on mountains. “I’m really optimistic the sport has changed,” LeMond said. “There’s been a line drawn in the sand.” LeMond is also optimistic about races like the Tour of Missouri (Sept. 8-14), which he says helps bring the sport to a new crowd. “There’s a lot of people who ride bikes, and I think from a state perspective, Missouri and Iowa are great bike-riding areas,” LeMond said. “It’s good for cycling.” But LeMond also knows that rehabbing the sport’s image won’t be a fast process. It will take a while before all the cheaters are weeded out. “You’ll have slip-ups,” LeMond said. “Once these guys have performed with drugs, they really don’t believe they can perform without them.” Regardless, he’s happy the sport is starting to change for the better. “Too many people love cycling, too many people love the Tour de France (for it to die now),” LeMond said. “But if it didn’t change, I really believe it would have had a long, slow death. It wouldn’t have recovered.” To reach Terez A. Paylor, send e-mail to tpaylor@kcstar.com

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