CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy, Jan 18, 2013 (AFP) – During Lance Armstrong’s reign, dozens of riders would bow to the superiority of the man labelled the ‘Boss’ because of his iron-fisted rule on the Tour de France peloton.
Arguably, only Filippo Simeoni can claim to have lost his livelihood as a direct result of Armstrong’s actions – but the Italian is not sure he can ever forgive the disgraced American.
“I acknowledge Armstrong’s confession on television but he put me through such a humiliating experience and damaged me so much, in terms of sport, morale and finances that I don’t know if I could ever forgive him,” Simeoni told Radio24 Friday.
Despite winning two stages at the Tour of Spain and the Italian national title in 2008, Simeoni will forever be remembered for a feud with Armstrong that was played out to a global audience at the 2004 Tour de France.
A former dope cheat himself, Simeoni had previously admitted to Italian magistrates to being treated by Michele Ferrari, a notorious Italian sports doctor.
Simeoni told the court he had begun doping in 1993 and had been prescribed products such as EPO (erythropoietin) and Human Growth Hormone in 1996 and 1997, and advised how to use the substances by Ferrari.
He maintains he never once spoke of Armstrong. Instead, Simeoni’s ‘crime’ was to have exposed Ferrari in an era when the Italian doctor had direct links to Armstrong.
The feud began when Armstrong labelled the Italian a “liar” in a July 2003 interview with French paper Le Monde. Simeoni sued for defemation, demanding 100,000 euros he said would be given to charity.
A year later, Simeoni paid the price.
It was the 18th stage of the Tour de France and Simeoni joined a six-man breakaway in a bid to fight for stage victory.
Armstrong jumped out of the peloton and closed the gap, was followed by the T-Mobile team of rival Jan Ullrich, thus giving the breakaway no chance.
After Armstrong refused to drop back, Simeoni was ordered to leave the breakaway group.
When he did, with Armstrong in tow, the Italian was spat on and verbally abused by several leading riders including Filippo Pozzato, a fellow-Italian who recently served a ban for consulting with Ferrari.
On the final stage, usually held at a slow pace as the race winner (in this case Armstrong) celebrates his win, Simeoni attacked repeatedly but was reeled in again and again. And spat on, again.
Because Simeoni was a witness against Ferrari, the Italian authorities threatened to charge Armstrong with intimidation. But eventually, in April 2006, the defamation charges were dropped.
Simeoni was always considered something of a maverick and his career suffered as a result.
In a recent interview he claimed bigger teams did not want to employ him. “My earnings definitely suffered, and I probably gave up two years earlier than I otherwise would have done. I lost my peak years,” he said
Now the the owner of two coffee shops near Rome, Simeoni feels Armstrong’s confession has simply not gone far enough.
“Honestly, Armstrong’s words leave me feeling indifferent and in no way made up for all the offences, victimisation and humiliation I suffered,” he added.
“His admission was self-serving. He has to give a more complete confession in a way that will help cycling move on in a more positive direction.”
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