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Giro finale
Photo ©: Bettini

News Feature, October 2, 2008

Armstrong responds to testing times

By Cyclingnews staff

'Better make that seven', says Armstrong in 2005
Photo ©: Sirotti
Click for larger image

Lance Armstrong has responded to a proposal by the French Anti-Doping Authority (AFLD) that it re-test urine samples taken from him during the 1999 Tour de France. Designed to "enable the cyclist Lance Armstrong to dispel any unfounded rumours," the testing is a flashback to 2005, when allegations about the American's samples were made by French sports daily, L'Equipe.

On that occasion, the paper reported that "Recent analysis of samples dating from the American's first Tour de France victory demonstrate that Lance Armstrong had already consumed doping products." Armstrong was quick to respond on that occasion, saying, "Yet again, a European newspaper has reported that I have tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. [Today's] L'Equipe, a French sports daily, is reporting that my 1999 samples were positive. Unfortunately, the witch hunt continues and [the] article is nothing short of tabloid journalism.

"The paper even admits in its own article that the science in question here is faulty and that I have no way to defend myself. They state: 'There will therefore be no counter-exam nor regulatory prosecutions, in a strict sense, since defendant's rights cannot be respected. 'I will simply restate what I have said many times: I have never taken performance enhancing drugs."

Armstrong cited the end result three years ago as evidence of why the case should not be revisited now. The seven-time Tour champion made a point of reiterating the reasons for his absolution in the matter and the contrary conduct of then-WADA president, Dick Pound. He began by saying that, "Today, Mr. Pierre Bodry, the new head of the French anti-doping agency, proposed that they retest samples from the 1999 Tour de France. Unfortunately, Mr. Bodry is new to these issues and his proposal is based on a fundamental failure to understand the facts.

"In 2005, some research was conducted on urine samples left over from the 1998 and 1999 Tours de France. That research was the subject of an independent investigation, and the conclusions of the investigation were that the 1998 and 1999 Tour de France samples have not been maintained properly, have been compromised in many ways, and even three years ago could not be tested to provide any meaningful results. There is simply nothing that I can agree to that would provide any relevant evidence about 1999.

Just days after Armstrong had announced his return to professional cycling, Dick Pound weighed into the debate over the merits of the American's comeback. And as expected, it wasn't complimentary. The outspoken Canadian told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that he wasn't convinced it was a clean return, saying, "With his comeback not all doping accusations go away."

Therefore, as expected, Armstrong saved his greatest criticism for the man who had most to say about the seven-time Tour champion during his career - from the viewpoint of possible doping, at least. "In addition, the Independent Investigation concluded that the French laboratory, the French Ministry of Sport, and Dick Pound, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, all behaved improperly with respect to the 1999 Tour de France samples. The Independent Investigation concluded that both Mr. Pound and the French laboratory engaged in improper conduct that violated a number of regulations and laws. After the report of the Independent Investigator was issued, Mr. Pound's conduct was submitted to the IOC Ethics Commission and the IOC Ethics Commission censured Mr. Pound.

It was an undisguised swipe at those who had created the headlines which led to months of debate following the release of L'Equipe's story. He added that, "What the Report of the Independent Investigation did recommend, was that the issues of the conduct of Mr. Pound, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the French Ministry, and the French laboratory should be submitted to an independent tribunal, in particular the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the Court for the entire Olympic movement, to address the issues and improper conduct identified by the Independent Investigator.

A familiar sight
Photo ©: Roberto Bettini
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"Two years ago I agreed to have all of these issues aired and decided by that tribunal, but WADA and the French Ministry refused. If Mr. Bodry would now like to re-examine the past, he must start with presenting the issues of the misconduct of the French laboratory, the French Ministry, and WADA before a proper tribunal."

Armstrong had already retired following his seventh Tour title when L'Equipe's story broke in August 2005, and the American's unforeseen comeback was over three years away. At the time, however, chances were that he imagined a retirement relatively free of cycling, let alone a return to the professional peloton. His recent plans have instigated fresh action from those parties involved in the 2005 episode, despite the supposed closure of it in 2006, as mentioned by Armstrong above.

The Austin, TX native is remaining firmly focused on the future, stating that, "To avoid any questions going forward and to avoid any distractions from my primary purpose to launch a global campaign against cancer, I am working with the man who has been the leader of the world anti-doping community for the past 25 years. I approached Dr. Don Catlin in August and proposed to him that he should develop a comprehensive drug testing protocol, to test my blood and urine as often as he believes is appropriate, in order for him to determine categorically whether I have taken any performance-enhancing drugs.

"As I have stated, I have given Dr. Catlin my permission to post all of my testing results on the internet. Dr. Catlin is developing a protocol that will be available to other athletes who may want to subject themselves to such a rigorous drug testing regimen that Dr. Catlin or other leading anti-doping experts can determine whether they have used performance enhancing drugs."

Cyclingnews' recent coverage of Lance Armstrong's comeback

January 18, 2009 - Armstrong announces start of Catlin's drug testing programme
January 8, 2009 - Armstrong impresses Carmichael prior to Tour Down Under
January 7, 2009 - Armstrong believes Team Astana can dominate Tour
December 10, 2008 - Merckx: Armstrong's return good for cycling and Giro
December 8, 2008 - Armstrong climbs Teide
December 6, 2008 - Rast on life with Armstrong
December 5, 2008 - Armstrong considers Tour of Ireland
December 5, 2008 - Armstrong: Contador is the best
December 4, 2008 - Horner unites with Armstrong despite past differences
December 3, 2008 - Armstrong and Contador ride separate paths towards Tour
December 2, 2008 - Armstrong surfs with Astana
December 2, 2008 - Armstrong plans to race Tour
December 1, 2008 - Armstrong's anti-doping testing program pending
November 23, 2008 - Media out of love with Armstrong?
November 22, 2008 - Andreu caught up in Armstrong fight again
November 19, 2008 - Armstrong concerned about Tour safety
November 17, 2008 - Armstrong to meet with ASO
November 9, 2008 - Armstrong racing in Texas again
November 7, 2008 - Exclusive Armstrong wind tunnel video
November 7, 2008 - Lance Armstrong speaks at Web 2.0 conference
November 6, 2008 - Carmichael dials in Armstrong's comeback training
November 5, 2008 - Armstrong looking for balance
November 5, 2008 - Photos from Armstrong's wind tunnel test
November 3, 2008 - Armstrong doubles up and heads to wind tunnel

Cyclingnews' complete coverage of Lance Armstrong's comeback

More Cyclingnews features