In this July 22, 2004, file photo, Lance Armstrong reacts as he crosses the finish line to win the 17th stage of the Tour de France cycling race between Bourd-d'Oisans and Le Grand Bornand, French Alps. / Laurent Rebours, AP
PARIS â?? Cycling fan Valentin Jacquemet says he is losing sleep over the thought of seeing his hero, Lance Armstrong, admit on television to the world that he doped.
"Lance, you've made my life hard," Jacquemet lamented in a letter to Armstrong on the website of French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur. "Imagine now, what a night I've (just) had!
Others in France feel differently about the American who won professional cycling's top race, the Tour de France, seven consecutive times between 1999 and 2005.
"He's a cheat," said Jean-Luc Andre, a cycling coach at a club outside of Aix-en-Provence. "He cheated, and he was detected, like all cheaters are in the end."
Armstrong confessed to Oprah Winfrey in a taped interview to air Thursday and Friday that he took performance-enhancing drugs during his record-breaking streak. Some, like Jacquemet, won't believe it until they hear it from his Armstrong's mouth.
The Amaury Sporting Organization, which operates the Tour de France, said it would not consider commenting after Oprah's interview airs.
"We are waiting for the program to be broadcast," Tour spokesman Thomas Cariou said. "We have to wait so there's something for us to comment on."
Many French gloated over the exposure of a man who humbled Europe by crushing its greatest competitors in one of its most cherished competitions, the 110-year old bike race that captivates the nation as it winds through the French countryside and Pyrenees and concludes at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
In typical French fashion, cynicism about the fraud is not reserved for Armstrong alone.
"They have been taking drugs since 1903," said 24-years old Coline Benoist. "When I watched the tour when I was little, I used to wonder if they were human!"
Salina Muwanga, 35, says many French have always suspected something was fishy and not just with Armstrong.
"I believe that these cycling feats realistically can't be done naturally," said Salina Muwanga, 35. "They may have a better constitution than a normal person. But that's still not enough to achieve performances of that standard."
Others insisted that the scandal goes beyond Armstrong and more malefactors must be rooted out.
"His whole team is implicated," wrote former French cycling champion Cyrille Guimard in the French sporting site RMC. "But that cannot happen if there aren't protectors, if people aren't involved at the very highest level."
Benoist said the cheating in cycling is not just with drugs. She said professional racers are juicing their bikes as well as their bodies, "like tampering with parts to make the bike lighter."
Some believe Armstrong may be confessing so that he can resume athletic activities and remain in the spotlight. If so, the French are not planning to forgive.
"This is all too little, too late," said Guy Legay, a member of a cycling club in Paris. "It's a shame for cycling."
McPhedran reported from Berlin
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