Lance Armstrong denied he's receiving training help from a banned Italian doctor or his son, but maintains "those guys are my friends and that's not going to change."
Armstrong spoke Saturday at the XTERRA USA Championship — an off-road triathlon, where he finished fifth — in the wake of allegations that appeared in Italian media this week. The report by Corriere della Sera cited the work of unidentified Swiss and Italian investigators and said that Dr. Michele Ferrari was at the centre of a widespread doping ring.
Corriere said Armstrong made payments to Ferrari through a now liquidated company but did not say when.
Ferrari, who was barred for life by the Italian Cycling Federation under a 2002 ruling, was Armstrong's adviser for years but the seven-time Tour de France winner severed their professional relationship in 2004. Earlier this year, Armstrong acknowledged occasionally meeting with Ferarri socially.
Corriere also reported Wednesday that Ferrari's son was involved in the distribution of performance-enhancing drugs, and that Armstrong called the son before last year's Tour de France, referring to him as "No. 1."
In response, the doctor issued a statement Thursday that denied the paper's allegations and said "my son Stefano is administering a website which offers personalized training consultancy to various cyclists and triathletes; Lance Armstrong is among them."
But Armstrong said the Ferraris hadn't been involved in his training for the XTERRA, while defending his social relationship with the family.
"I've always maintained those guys are my friends and that's not going to change," he said.
"To be honest, I'm totally immune to any controversy," Armstrong said. "I've been listening to this stuff for 15 years."
Armstrong, who won the Tour every year from 1999-2005, has always fiercely denied doping and has never failed a drug test. He is, however, being investigated by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles that has been meeting for more than a year to examine illegal drug use in professional cycling.
The cyclist accused investigators of timing leaks to the media for moments when he was racing, be it at Tour de France, the Tour Down Under or the XTERRA. This week he also represented Livestrong, his cancer charity, at a summit this week in New York City partly sponsored by the United Nations.
"It's no accident they leaked that this week. It's just the clowns on the other side just capitalizing on all you guys standing here. And you guys fall right into it," he told a crowd of reporters.