(CNN)Once again at the Tour de France, the spotlight shone on Lance Armstrong.
Surrounded by reporters and their microphones Thursday, the American made his long-awaited return to the roads where he won a record seven successive titles in cycling's most prestigious event.
But the 43-year-old, who was stripped of those yellow jerseys for years of "systematic" doping strategies, acknowledged that he was no longer welcome on the scene.
Tour chiefs had called him "disrespectful" for agreeing to take part in the charity ride, which tackles the race's 21 stages a day ahead of the competing riders.
"It's nice to be back, yes," Armstrong told journalists, as reported by Cycling News magazine.
"I understand people's reactions. I understand there are still some hurt feelings and that's a process I'll walk through for a long, long time."
However, he repeated past claims that he has been made a scapegoat in a sport where drug-taking was rife during the 1999-2005 era in which he was unbeatable at Le Tour.
"Why am I not welcome? Because I'm a doper? If that were the rule, the caravan would almost be empty," Armstrong said.
"I don't mean the riders in this Tour, but in the press room, the commentary boxes, team cars.
"We all rode in an unfortunate era. But if you're going to apply a standard it has to be universal."
Armstrong, who famously overcame testicular cancer before winning his first Tour title, was taking part in the "One Day Ahead" charity event, which aims to raise money for leukemia research.
It was organized by former England international soccer player Geoff Thomas, who with Armstrong and 10 other riders took part in Thursday's 198-kilometer (123-mile) leg from Muret to Rodez.
"Honestly, Geoff started a great thing. The cause is near and dear for him," said Armstrong, who will also ride in Friday's 178 km 14th leg from Rodez to Mende.
"He came to Austin and talked to me about what they're doing and asked me to come. He made a real passionate effort so I decided to do it."
Armstrong's return was not greeted warmly by some members of the Tour.