Spaniard Alberto Contador expressed support on Wednesday for disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong saying the American was being "humiliated and lynched" by doping accusations which have led to the stripping of his seven Tour de France titles.
"It seems to me that at certain times and in certain places Lance is not being treated with any respect," Contador, a double Tour champion who returned from a two-year doping ban in August, told reporters in Paris at the presentation of the 2013 edition of the race.
"He is being humiliated and lynched, in my opinion. He is being destroyed," the Saxo Bank-Tinkoff rider, who had a difficult relationship with Armstrong when they were team mates at Astana, was quoted as saying by Spanish media.
"Right now people are talking about Lance but there has not been any new test or anything," Contador added. "It's based exclusively on witness statements that could have existed in 2005.
"I respect each rider's decision but I would have liked it to happen a bit earlier."
Armstrong was stripped of his 1999-2005 Tour victories on Monday when the International Cycling Union (UCI) ratified the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency's decision to erase his results from August, 1998.
Armstrong, who fought back from cancer to dominate the sport, has always denied doping and says he has never failed a drugs test.
"What there is (in terms of evidence) I don't know, what I do know is that if cycling is popular in the United States it's thanks to him," Contador said.
"If they know over there what the Tour is it's thanks to him, if there are top-level teams and races in his country it's thanks to him."
Contador said the current testing regime was adequate as a means of preventing illegal doping.
"There is little that needs to be changed at the moment. The tests we have are as rigorous as possible, we have to be able to be located at all times," he said.
"There will be people who will have doubts, given everything that has come out, and I understand it.
"I say to them that they should believe completely that riders win races without help, also on the Tour."