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Hamburg - Former Tour de France champion Greg LeMond reiterated doping accusations against fellow-American rider Lance Armstrong and accused the ruling body UCI of remaining silent.
LeMond said in an interview with Saturday's edition of Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) daily that Armstrong had submitted a positive doping test in 1999, the year he won his first of seven straight Tour titles.
He alleged donations to the UCI by Armstrong, two of them now confirmed by the ruling body and worth 125,000 dollars, were effectively corruption, saying: "Remain silent, pay - it's almost like the mafia."
LeMond said that Armstrong and his entourage were the worst thing that has happened to the sport and also said that his retirement in 2005 (before his return last year) only came after reports that retests of 1999 samples had been positive for the blood booster EPO.
"If he was an ordinary rider, and not a cancer survivor with a machinery surrounding him, he would be long gone," LeMond told SZ.
A US federal probe is under way after another American rider, Floyd Landis (who was stripped of the 2006 Tour title for failing a doping test), accused Armstring and others of organised doping.
LeMond, who has been reportedly ordered to appear before a Grand Jury on July 30, said the affair was far worse than the one around the Balco lab in California which supplied athletes like sprinter Marion Jones with designer drugs.
But LeMond is convinced that Armstrong, who is currently riding the Tour, will be caught.
"I am convinced that Armstrong will be caught. He is history. But when the federation is also affected, the UCI - and I believe this is possible - then it will become even more interesting," said LeMond.
The Three-time Tour champion LeMond, who has been at odds with Armstrong for years, alleged that the UCI had acted like the catholic church in abuse cases in the United States and elsewhere.
"I don't know if I should use the comparison, but it reminds me of the catholic church and the abuse victims. There the top had to be replaced as well because they all knew about it - and did nothing.
"The same happened in cycling: Everyone was part of the dirty game, and no one says 'let's clean up the house!" said LeMond.
LeMond also said that Armstrong had not threatened legal action this time around as he had done around past doping allegations.
"Floyd is telling the truth. And they know it, he (Armstrong), the other suspects, their lawyers," said LeMond. - Sapa-dpa