Lance Armstrong: I am being treated like Voldemort
Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong has compared himself to Voldemort, the primary antagonist in the fictional Harry Potter novels, and issued a strong rebuttal to UCI president Brian Cookson's criticism of him as he prepares to go ahead with his ride of the Tour de France route.
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from all sport for life nearly three years ago for doping offences, which he denied until January 2013 when he made a shock tell-all confession with Oprah Winfrey.
Earlier this year, Armstrong told the BBC he would cheat again if he were given the chance but added he thought he should be forgiven, and he reiterated that stance in interviews with the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph.
He likened his treatment to that of fictional character Voldemort, who derives fear from the magic community in JK Rowling's novels to the extent that hardly any character dares utter his name.
"I'm that character in Harry Potter they can't talk about," he said. "Voldemort? It's as if you can't mention him.
"I'm the one everybody wants to pretend never lived. But that will not be the case for ever because it can't be the case forever. That won't work, people aren't stupid. We know what happened.
Harry Potter villain Voldemort terrorises the eponymous character
"I mean, I tried to make it right with every one of those people (who were hindered either by Armstrong's doping or denial of doing so). I can only do so much."
Armstrong also took aim at cycling's world governing body chief Cookson, who branded the Texan "completely disrespectful" for looking to ride the Tour de France route this summer for charity.
Cookson suggested Armstrong ''would be well-advised not to take part'' in former England footballer Geoff Thomas' charity fundraising mission.
Thomas has convinced shamed drugs cheat Armstrong to take part in his charity stunt, riding the Tour route one day ahead of the professional peloton.
Cookson said the UCI has no authority to stop Armstrong's bid, but urged the American to think again.
Yet Armstrong believes Cookson has bigger problems at hand.
He added: "I mean, I don't know Brian Cookson. I don't know what his vision is for the sport. I don't know if he is even able to form a vision. But I do know that me and Geoff riding in France is the least of his problems.
"If he is making public comments - and this is as strong as I'll go - he needs to be talking about other things because this sport is not in a good place for a variety of reasons.
"A lot of it has to do - perhaps some would say - with me. But he doesn't need to worry about this."
And as he prepares to ride in France again, Armstrong is resolute that he will not get a frosty reception.
"People think I have this bitter relationship with the country, with its people," he said. "I like going there. I love France. The people are what they are, it's like any place, some people are cool, some people aren't cool.
"I could be wrong, I've been wrong plenty in my life, but I've been to France since all this happened and if you walk into a cafe or a restaurant or walk down the street that [negativity] is not the reaction I get. God forbid the reaction is positive. What happens then?"