Disgraced US cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France tours for doping, claimed on Friday it was “impossible” to win the gruelling race without using banned substances.

Asked by Le Monde newspaper on the eve of the 100th Tour de France whether he could have achieved his victories without doping, Armstrong said: “It depends on the races you wanted to win. The Tour de France? No. Impossible to win without doping.”

“I didn’t invent doping ... And it didn’t end with me. I simply took part in the system,” Armstrong defended.

The centenary edition of the world’s toughest cycle race kicks off on Saturday on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica.

Armstrong was banned for life by the International Cycling Union in October after the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) said he had led “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen”.

While other Tour winners have been stripped of their titles for doping, including America’s Floyd Landis and Spain’s Alberto Contador, Armstrong is the only one to have had his name struck from the list of winners.

“It’s well and good to erase my name but the Tour did take place between 1999 and 2005, didn’t it? There must be a winner...Yet no-one has come forward to claim my jerseys,” he said.

The cyclist also reiterated his regret for disappointing his admirers.

“I will never manage to repair that, but I will spend my life trying,” he vowed.

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