Liggett: It's hard to simply say, 'I hate Lance Armstrong.' And I never would

Cycling commentator Phil Liggett reveals more details about his relationship with Lance Armstrong and how he was hurt by the Texan's doping confession

Phil Liggett (Sunada)
(Image credit: Yuzuru SUNADA)

Cycling commentator Phil Liggett describes how he turned Lance Armstrong "into a great cyclist" in an interview with the New Zealand Herald, where he insisted he wasn't "in his pocket".

This was the accusation that was regularly angled at Liggett during Armstrong's pomp between 1999 and 2005, and then in the years afterwards when the commentator defended Armstrong amid doping allegations.

But while Liggett says his was hurt by Armstrong's confession, he says he finds it hard to hate the former cyclist.

"People say I was in his pocket and strong friends but that's totally untrue. I was hoping against hope it wasn't drugs," Liggett told the Herald.

"I wanted absolute proof before I spoke against him and, despite what they say, they never got the proof. But they got the confession. That's what counted.

"The guy was still an incredible talent and a brave man. He was virtually dead with cancer but became a life support for millions of sufferers. He spent incredible hours helping those people and raising money.

"It's hard to simply say, 'I hate Lance Armstrong.' And I never would."

Liggett, who has worked in cycling since 1973, called all of Armstrong's seven Tour de France titles on television and supported his charity work, raising money for those affected by cancer.

>>> Lance Armstrong hits out at hypocrisy in cycling’s doping culture

But the Merseysider says his relationship with Armstrong was mostly professional, claiming few really knew him as a friend.

"I built him up. I created him into a great cyclist, and he was, even though he took drugs," he added.

"On the other hand, I feel hurt and cheated that we made him look better than he should've and turned him into a star. To be fair, it wasn't just Lance. Pretty much all the top names were doing it, some of whom were never caught.

"I can't totally decry Lance. He raised US$600 million [$925 million] to fight cancer. I'd MC his gigs around the world.

"I don't believe anybody truly knew him. He'd rock up, shake hands, say 'What are we doing?'

"I'd say, 'This, this and this.' Then straight afterwards he was in the car with black windows and off."

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Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.