Lance questions Clerc's leadership

MONTPELLIER, France -- Lance Armstrong lashed out at former Tour de France boss Patrice Clerc on Tuesday, saying he should take responsibility for the doping scandals at the race during the American's three-year absence.

Armstrong was responding to comments made by Clerc, the former head of Tour organizer ASO, who told French newspaper Le Monde last week that the seven-time champion's return meant "reopening a troubled chapter of the Tour history."

"Was the Tour and was ASO in a perfect situation when I was gone?" Armstrong said when asked about Clerc's statement. "When you look at any company or any organization, and you have dissension among the ranks, corruption among the ranks, you have too look at the boss. He was the boss. Under his reign, and under his leadership, cycling was not perfect."

Armstrong returned to the Tour de France competition this year after retiring following his seventh win in 2005. The American moved up to second place overall after Tuesday's fourth stage, a 24.2-mile team time trial won by his Astana team.

In 2006, the race was tarnished by one of the biggest scandals in Tour history when Floyd Landis had his title stripped for testing positive for testosterone. The next year, leader Michael Rasmussen was sent home for lying about his whereabouts in pre-race anti-doping checks.

In 2008, six riders were caught doping, including third-place finisher and King of the Mountains winner Bernhard Kohl.

Clerc was replaced last year by Jean-Etienne Amaury, who said Armstrong would be welcome back this year if he met the criteria set by cycling's world governing body.

"The question really has to be turned back to him [Clerc]," Armstrong added. "I understand he is upset that he no longer has the job. But ... I would turn the question around, and analyze the four years I was gone."

Following his last Tour victory, Armstrong railed against the "cynics and the skeptics" who didn't believe his triumphs were doping-free. A month after his retirement, French sports daily L'Equipe reported that Armstrong's "B" samples from the 1999 Tour contained EPO -- a banned blood-boosting hormone. The newspaper is owned by race organizer ASO.

Armstrong insisted he was the victim of a "witch hunt," and a Dutch lawyer appointed by the UCI later cleared him.