Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong: Competitors know I won 7 Tour de France titles

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Lance Armstrong said that his competitors would agree with him that he’s a seven-time Tour de France champion, despite being stripped of those titles in 2012 due to doping.

In a Dan Patrick Show interview Tuesday, Armstrong was asked if he still considered himself a seven-time Tour winner as his Twitter bio says. The full interview is here.

“I know that’s a polarizing subject question, and it’s certainly polarizing for me to have that on there [the Twitter bio],” Armstrong said. “I think the 200 guys that took that start line, all of those seven years, I think if we went and asked those guys who won the races, they would tell you who won the races. I think it’s unfair, and it’s a real injustice to the sport and to the event to not have a winner. As unfortunate and as messy of a time as it was, it just was what it was. I’m terribly sorry for the people that are literally pissed off and disappointed by that, but I think my competitors would agree that I won those races. And I agree with them.”

Armstrong said last year that he still thought of himself as a Tour champion but respected that many would disagree with him.

“Whether we say that those happened or not, whether I won or not, that’s for others to decide,” Armstrong said Tuesday.

Officials did not elevate the 1999-through-2005 second- or third-place cyclists, many of whom also cheated, to Tour winners when Armstrong was stripped. In more recent cases in 2006 and 2010, the second-place rider was elevated when winners Floyd Landis and Alberto Contador were stripped.

In 2013, Armstrong’s biggest rival during his heyday, German Jan Ullrich, said he believed Armstrong should keep the seven titles because doping was so prevalent in that era.

“I am no better than Armstrong, but no worse either,” said Ullrich, who admitted in June 2013 to blood doping during a career that included second-place finishes behind Armstrong at the 2000, 2001 and 2003 Tours.

Also Tuesday, Armstrong said he believes a clean cyclist could over time be better than he was as a cheater and brought up another U.S. Olympian who took performance-enhancing drugs, sprinter Justin Gatlin.

“Could somebody be better than you without cheating?” Patrick asked.

“I suppose over time it will be, yeah,” Armstrong said. “But don’t we all evolve? Look at the case of Justin Gatlin. He’s tested positive two or three times. He’s now back on the track. He’s probably being tested 82 times a day. He has the fastest time in the world in the 100-meter dash this year. He’s the favorite for a gold medal. So, I don’t know. Did he just find a way to do it clean? Let’s hope so.

“I’m not trying to excuse what me or an entire generation did, but more and more, I think that’s pretty well-known. We came across an era where the PEDs that were available were so beneficial and so advantageous that if you didn’t gear up, it was going to be hard to stick around.

“When I flew over to Europe in the early ’90s, I thought, this is cool, I’m a tough kid from Plano, Texas. I’m going to work hard and kick these guys’ asses. Within a year or two, it did look different. I thought, OK, I’m not going home. I’m staying, and I’m fighting.”

Lance Armstrong on forgiveness: ‘We’re getting close to that time’

Novak Djokovic rolls at French Open; top women escape

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Novak Djokovic began what could be a march to his 18th Grand Slam title, sweeping Swede Mikael Ymer 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 in the French Open first round on Tuesday.

The top seed Djokovic lost just seven points in the first set. He gets Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis in the second round in a half of the draw that includes no other man with French Open semifinal experience.

Djokovic had plenty going for him into Roland Garros, seeking to repeat his 2016 run to the title. The chilly weather is similar to four years ago.

“I don’t like usually comparing the years,” he said. “But I think [the conditions are] quite suitable to my style of the game.”

As is Djokovic’s form. His only loss in 2020 was when he was defaulted at the U.S. Open for hitting a ball in anger that struck a linesperson in the throat.

Djokovic got a break with the draw when No. 3 seed Dominic Thiem was put in No. 2 Rafael Nadal‘s half. The Serbian also won his clay-court tune-up event in Rome, where he received warnings in back-to-back matches for breaking a racket and uttering an obscenity.

“I don’t think that [the linesperson incident] will have any significant negative impact on how I feel on the tennis court,” Djokovic said before Roland Garros. “I mean, I won the tournament in Rome just a week later after what happened in New York.

“I really want to be my best version as a player, as a human being on the court, and win a tennis match. Because of the care that I have for that, I sometimes express my emotions in good way or maybe less good way.”

If Djokovic can lift the Coupe des Mousquetaires two Sundays from now, he will move within two of Roger Federer‘s career Slams record. Also notable: He would keep Nadal from tying Federer’s record and head into the Australian Open in January, his signature Slam, with a chance to match Nadal at 19.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

Earlier Tuesday, No. 2 Karolina Pliskova and No. 4 Sofia Kenin each needed three sets to reach the second round.

The Czech Pliskova rallied past Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif 6-7 (9), 6-2, 6-4. Pliskova, the highest-ranked player without a major title, next gets 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.

“Let’s not talk about my level [of play],” Pliskova said. “I think there is big room for improvement.”

Kenin, the American who won the Australian Open in February, outlasted Russian Liudmila Samsonova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

“It doesn’t matter how you win — ugly, pretty, doesn’t matter,” Kenin said on Tennis Channel.

She gets Romanian Ana Bogdan in the second round. Only one other seed — No. 14 Elena Rybakina — is left in Kenin’s section en route to a possible quarterfinal.

American Jen Brady, who made a breakthrough run to the U.S. Open semifinals, was beaten by Danish qualifier Clara Tauson  6-4, 3-6, 9-7.

Sam Querrey nearly made it eight American men into the second round, serving for the match in the third set. But he succumbed to 13th-seeded Russian Andrey Rublev 6-7 (5), 6-7 (4), 7-5, 6-4, 6-3. It’s still the best first-round showing for U.S. men since nine advanced in 1996.

The second round begins Wednesday, highlighted by Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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U.S. men off to best French Open start in 24 years

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The last time U.S. men started this well at the French Open, Sebastian Korda wasn’t alive and his dad had yet to win a Grand Slam singles title.

Eight American men are into the second round at Roland Garros, the largest contingent in the last 64 since 1996. It could have been nine, had Sam Querrey served out the match in the third set against 13th seed Andrey Rublev of Russia.

Still, the U.S. has more men in the second round than any other nation. Astonishing, given U.S. men went a collective 1-9 at the 2019 French Open.

Back in 1996, nine American men won first-round matches. That group included Pete SamprasAndre AgassiJim Courier and Michael Chang (in Sampras’ deepest run in Paris, to the semifinals).

Clay has long been kryptonite for this generation of Americans — the last U.S. man to make a Roland Garros quarterfinal was Agassi in 2003.

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Men | Women | TV Schedule

This group includes veterans like Jack Sock, who swept countryman Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-4, 6-3 on Monday. Sock, 28, was once ranked eighth in the world.

He then dropped out of the rankings entirely, missing time due to injury and going 10 months between tour-level match wins. He’s now at No. 310 and preparing to play No. 3 Dominic Thiem in the second round.

“A pretty horrific two years in a row,” Sock said. “I’m not opposed to silencing some haters after the last couple years I’ve gone through. I’ve read and seen enough of it, heard enough of it. I’m kind of ready to reestablish myself out there, let people know that I’m back.”

Then there’s 35-year-old John Isner, the big server who swept a French wild card in round one. Isner, the highest seeded U.S. man at No. 21, has posted some decent Roland Garros results, reaching the fourth round three times.

There are new faces, too. Taylor Fritz is seeded 27, aged 22 and in an open section of the draw to make his first Grand Slam fourth round.

On Sunday, 20-year-old Korda became the youngest U.S. man to win a French Open main-draw match since an 18-year-old Andy Roddick beat Chang in 2001.

He is the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda and brother of the world’s second- and 22nd-ranked female golfers (Nelly and Jessica).

So far, Sebastian’s biggest feats: winning the 2018 Australian Open junior title and, in his only golf tournament, beating both of his sisters when he was 11. It was around that age that he gave up ice hockey and focused solely on tennis.

Korda was hooked after watching a Czech whom his dad coached, Radek Stepanek, at the U.S. Open in 2009.

“He played Djokovic on [Arthur] Ashe [Stadium] like at 10:30 at night,” Korda, nicknamed Sebi, said on Tennis Channel. “Completely packed. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I went home, and I was like, this is exactly what I want to do.”

An American man is already guaranteed to make the third round in Paris. Korda faces Isner on Thursday.

“I grew up on the clay,” Korda said, “so I know how to play on it a little bit.”

MORE: Halep, Comaneci and the genesis of a Romanian friendship

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