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French want me out - Lance

2009-04-11 02:16
"Why me?" (Gallo Images)

Paris - Lance Armstrong claimed on Friday that French anti-doping authorities are plotting to prevent him from racing in the Tour de France.

The seven-time champion, who has undergone 24 drug tests since his comeback to professional racing in September last year, has become increasingly annoyed with the French anti-doping body (AFLD).

On Thursday, the AFLD announced it was pursuing the American for unprofessional behaviour, claiming the Texan had violated strict dope-testing rules. But on Friday, Armstrong, 37, hit back:

"We have a long history. I know that my comeback wasn't welcomed by a lot of people in France," he said in a video message.

"It's unfortunate. I expect this will escalate and that we will see more antics out of the AFLD in the near future.

"There's a very high likelihood that they (the AFLD) prohibit me from riding in the Tour."

The AFLD's dispute with Armstrong relates to an out-of-competition test last month when the Astana rider took a shower at his French home for 20 minutes while the identity of a doping official who had come calling was verified with cycling's governing body, the UCI.

Armstrong claims he was given permission to shower by the official who turned up after a training ride in the French riviera town of Beaulieu-sur-Mer on March 17. Although no traces of drugs were found in samples of Armstrong's hair, the AFLD is considering bringing charges against him.

"We asked the official to wait outside while we checked to see if he was legitimate," said Armstronmg who was surprised that a tester had arrived alone.

"The control was fine, there was nothing abnormal....but a few weeks later we have this issue that they want to start disciplinary proceedings."

Pat McQuaid, the president of cycling's governing body, was furious with the AFLD.

"The French are not acting very professionally in this case," he told the BBC.

"The tester has to have a specific instruction that the athlete must remain under his supervision from the moment he is notified until the test is concluded.

"From my understanding, this was not the case. Lance Armstrong had every right to take a shower while his manager (Astana team head Johan Bruyneel) checked with the UCI that these people had the authority to take these samples.

"During that time his manager rang me and I put him on to our anti-doping manager, who confirmed that it (the AFLD) has the authority to take samples."

McQuaid said the demand for a sample of Armstrong's hair was "unusual".

"That only happens in France, which is for research purposes," he told the BBC.

"Armstrong was concerned whether he (the tester) had the authority to do this."

The AFLD's nine-member ruling committee is to meet to decide whether to press ahead and consider punishing Armstrong. Any sanction would only apply to French territory, which could effect Armstrong's intended participation in the Tour de France. McQuaid criticised the AFLD's handling of the Armstrong case.

"The French authorities decided to make up a report on the testing procedure, forward it to the UCI, knowing the UCI have no jurisdiction on the case and at the same time that report has leaked to the press," said the former Irish cyclist.

"I would have to question why that is the case.

"Normal proceedings between institutions such as national anti-doping agencies, the international federation and Wada are normally done in a professional and confidential way until a decision or sanction has been taken.

"In this case it was leaked to the press and I do find that disturbing."

Armstrong, who is currently recovering from surgery after breaking his collar bone, is hoping to line up for the Tour of Italy, which starts on May 9.

Read more on:    bbc  |  tdf  |  surgery
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