Reuters Article On Armstrong/L'Equipe


B. Lafferty

Tour winner Armstrong hit by doping allegations
Tue Aug 23, 2005 5:22 PM ET

By Patrick Vignal

PARIS (Reuters) - Seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has
denied ever taking performance-enhancing drugs following a report in French
newspaper L'Equipe that he had used the blood-boosting drug EPO.

Tour de France executive director Jean-Marie Leblanc said he felt let down
by Armstrong after L'Equipe alleged the American had taken the banned drug
in 1999, the year he first won the world's greatest cycle race.

Armstrong, who recovered from testicular cancer to become the most
successful rider in the Tour's history, has been forced to rebut several
doping allegations during his career and he repeated on Tuesday that his
sporting successes were 'clean'.

"I will simply restate what I have said many times: I have never taken
performance-enhancing drugs," the 33-year-old, who retired in July, said in
a statement on his personal website.

L'Equipe, saying it had access to laboratory documents, reported on Tuesday
that six of Armstrong's urine samples collected on the 1999 Tour de France
showed "indisputable" traces of EPO (erythropoietin).

L'Equipe published what it claimed to be a results sheet from the laboratory
which appeared to show six figures revealing traces of EPO. The newspaper
also published documents from the French cycling federation showing exactly
the same figures under Armstrong's name.

The Chatenay-Malabry lab said in a statement that the samples they tested
did not have names attached and they could not confirm if any of the samples
were Armstrong's.


The lab said all test results had been sent to WADA, the agency in charge of
the fight against doping in world sport, on the condition they did not use
them to take disciplinary action.

WADA head **** Pound said his agency had "a general interest in finding out
the truth."

He added: "Nothing in cycling surprises me. What is interesting about this
is the specificity. No longer is this a case of: 'he said, she said'.

"There is a direct link between Armstrong and a positive test that he

"How do you explain this document? Of course, it could be a forgery. But
assuming the document is real, it is an interesting situation."

Despite the lack of proof and Armstrong's denials, cycling officials
expressed disappointment.

"I remain cautious and slightly circumspect but this is troubling and I feel
disappointment inside me, like many sports lovers must do," Leblanc told
French radio station RTL


Asked if he felt let down by Armstrong, Leblanc said. "Yes."

International Cycling Union (UCI) president Hein Verbruggen told Reuters:
"We have to wait and see if this is true.

"Only then will we be able to ask ourselves whether there should be any
legal action and whether this is a further blow for cycling.

"I have to say this is not pleasant but, for the moment, it only involves
Lance Armstrong and France."

There were no tests to detect EPO, a drug that increases the level of red
blood cells and endurance, in 1999.

However, samples from the 1999 Tour were kept and have been recently
retested by the specialist anti-doping laboratory in Chatenay-Malabry
outside Paris.

The World Anti-doping Agency (WADA)-accredited lab, which developed the test
to detect EPO, started retesting last year samples that had been taken
between 1998 and 1999 and frozen. The new tests were part of a scientific
research program.


A spokesman for WADA said the latest research results from the French
laboratory had arrived at the Montreal-based organization on Monday.

He said that like the lab, WADA had no means of matching names to the
samples and this could be done only by the French cycling federation, the
French sports ministry or the UCI.

Despite being in a class of his own in recent years, Armstrong could never
win over French fans or journalists. "LA Confidential," a book on his life
containing accusations of doping, was published on the eve of the 2004 Tour.

The leader of the U.S. Postal team, which became the Discovery Channel team
this year, he lost a Paris court case in 2004 when his request that the
controversial book should include his denial of drug-taking was turned down.

"To all the cynics, I'm sorry for you," Armstrong said after his final Tour
triumph in July. "I'm sorry you can't believe in miracles. This is a great
sporting event and hard work wins it."

Armstrong said in his statement of denial on Tuesday: "Unfortunately, the
witch hunt continues and (L'Equipe's) article is nothing short of tabloid

"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 (the) defendant's rights cannot be

The American retired after winning his record seventh Tour de France in
July. Before winning his first Tour in 1999, Armstrong won a battle against
testicular cancer, undergoing two operations and four bouts of chemotherapy.

Since retiring the Texan has concentrated on supporting the fight against
cancer, pressing President Bush to boost spending on research.

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