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Armstrong feels he is cycling's "fall guy"

(Please note strong language in 15th para)

PARIS (Reuters) - Lance Armstrong feels he is the scapegoat of a sport that has always been subject to cheating, the disgraced American cyclist said on Wednesday before criticizing International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid.

Asked whether he felt he was the 'fall guy for an entire sport/system', Armstrong, who was banned for life and stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping, told Cyclingnews (www.cyclingnews.com) in an exclusive email interview: "Actually, yes I do. But I understand why. We all make the beds we sleep in."

Armstrong, 41, confessed to doping this month, saying he used performance-enhancing drugs from the mid-1990s to 2005.

He believes, however, that every cycling generation cheated.

"My generation was no different than any other. The 'help' has evolved over the years but the fact remains that our sport is damn hard, the Tour was invented as a 'stunt'... and for a century all (riders) looked for advantages," he said.

"From hopping on trains a 100 years ago to EPO now. No generation was exempt or 'clean'. Not Merckx's, not Hinault's, not LeMond's, not Coppi's, not Gimondi's, not Indurain's, not Anquetil's, not Bartali's and not mine."

A truth and reconciliation process is the only way out of the crisis, according to Armstrong.

"It's not the best way, it's the only way. As much as I'm the eye of the storm this is not about one man, one team, one director," Armstrong said.

"This is about cycling and to be frank it's about ALL endurance sports. Publicly lynching one man and his team will not solve this problem."

McQuaid, who last October said Armstrong should have nothing to do with cycling, was not the first supporter of a truth and reconciliation commission, Armstrong said.

"When I was on speaking terms with ol' Pat McQuaid many, many months ago I said, 'Pat, you better think bold here. A full blown, global TRC is our sport's best solution.' He wanted to hear nothing of it," the American said.

Armstrong does not believe McQuaid is the right man to deal with the situation.

"Pat is just in constant CYA (Cover Your Ass) mode. Pathetic," he said.

Even with a governing body he feels cannot address the matter, cycling will weather the storm, the Texan explained.

"Cycling will never die, it will just simmer. Zero growth. Sponsors leaving, races cancelled - this we are seeing. This current state of chaos and petty bullshit, tit for tat, etc, will just ensure that cycling goes flat or negative for a decade plus," he said.

"Which is a real shame for the current crop of young pros the sport has."

Armstrong had already said he go into details of his doping past with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and he explained on Wednesday that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the UCI would not be welcome at the table.

"This is a global sport not an American one. One thing I'd add - the UCI has no place at the table," he said.

(Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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