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Triathlon boss wants Lance to stay away
Roger Vaughan
20:43 AEST Sun Jan 20 2013

Triathlon Australia chief executive Anne Gripper, a key figure in the Lance Armstrong doping saga, has derided him as far worse than a drug cheat.

Armstrong wants to return to sanctioned triathlons and marathons, but Gripper hopes that will not happen.

She also doubts the 41-year-old will be able to return in the short term by negotiating a substantial reduction to his life ban.

Her opinions on the Armstrong saga and its fallout are particularly significant, because she set up the anti-doping unit at cycling's world governing body in the wake of the 2006 Operation Puerto scandal.

She was running the unit at the UCI at the start of Armstrong's 2009-11 comeback before leaving in March 2010.

"If he was just a drug cheat, I always believe you should do a sanction and have the right to come back to the sport," Gripper told AAP.

"He's not a drug cheat - he's a bully, he's a manipulator, he's been incredibly unfair to a whole lot of people and he's a dead-set liar.

"(He's) not a single, one-off liar, he's a pathological liar.

"I don't want those people in our sport."

Asked if she thought Armstrong might now be able to reduce his ban so he can return to triathlons in the next couple of years, Gripper replied: "I think he's got Buckley's (chance), really".

Armstrong was preparing to compete in last year's Hawaiian Ironman world championships when the findings from the US Anti-Doping Agency investigation abruptly ended that campaign.

Gripper believes Armstrong when he said he rode clean during his cycling comeback, saying there was nothing in his test results when she was at the UCI to suggest abnormal blood values.

But she remains extremely curious why the US federal investigation into his doping abruptly ended in early 2011.

"I just put it down to this inordinate influence that Lance Armstrong had ... that was the only explanation I could come up with," she said.

"It would be interesting whether there is some review of that investigation."

Armstrong denies having helped influence the decision to stop the federal investigation.

Gripper also backs UCI president Pat McQuaid, who is under siege as a result of Armstrong's downfall. She established cycling's biological passport program, which Armstrong said was a key reason why he did not dope during his comeback.

"My relationship with the management and Pat as president ... was they were absolutely committed to the elimination of doping," Gripper said of the UCI.

But Gripper adds it is now crucial that the sport finds out for certain if the UCI has had any involvement in cycling's doping culture.

Gripper said she initially thought Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey would be farcical, but found it compelling.

She added that the confirmation of Armstrong's doping was a landmark moment for the sport.

"The big one was always Lance - I always knew the sport could never, never really move forward until the festering bubble that was 'did he or didn't he?' ... had been fully exposed," she said.

Gripper is confident the sport is cleaner than when Armstrong retired in 2005, but said the necessary cultural change among riders and teams had only started.

"The 2011 Tour de France was a bit of a landmark ... the fact that Cadel (Evans) won, that was the cherry on top of the cake," she said.

"But there were all sorts of other things that happened in that Tour ... to indicate a much more level playing field."

AAP rhv/gc/jm