After months of controversy surrounding his appearance at an event connected to the Tour of Flanders, Lance Armstrong has now pulled out of a planned speaking engagement due to “a very serious family and personal matter”.
Armstrong had been scheduled to attend the Tour of Flanders Business Academy, a VIP event which sees participants pay €295 (£260) to ride the final 74km of the Tour of Flanders followed by a lunch and speech, on Friday, but will now be replaced by Belgium football manager Roberto Martinez.
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“It is with great sadness and regret that, due to a very serious family and personal matter, I cannot attend this year’s Tour of Flanders,” Armstrong said in a press release from Tour of Flanders organiser Flanders Classics.
“Without going into too much detail, and out of respect for my family’s privacy, I must stay close to my home here in Texas to deal with the situation.
“I’m very happy that [Flanders Classics owner] Wouter Vandenhaute was able to find a great speaker for the Tour of Flanders Business Academy event in Roberto Martinez, the coach of the Belgian football team. I’m sure he has a very interesting story to tell and have been told he’s a great fan of cycling.”
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Armstrong is banned for life from taking part in professional cycling events, but this ban does not cover seperate events such as the Tour of Flanders Business Academy. However despite the event not being covered by Armstrong’s ban, his attendance at an event linked to the race has been criticised by many in cycling.
In January UCI president David Lappartient said that it “would not be a good idea” for Armstrong to speak at the event and even threatening to boycott the race, with the American also reportedly planning to ride the Flanders sportive event on the Saturday before the professional race, and perhaps even travel in a VIP car on the day of the race itself.
However had he have attended then Armstrong would have been far from alone in being a former drug cheat working close to a cycling race, with Richard Virenque working on French television and attending the Tour de France as a special guest each year and Alexandre Vinokourov being at the head of the Astana team.