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August 23, 2005
Original Article (French)
A thunderbolt. One month after having won his seventh victory in the Tour de France this summer, Lance Armstrong, recently retired, is once again the center of attention. But this time the issue is doping. Six of his urine samples, collected during the 1999 Tour and analyzed later by the Châtenay-Malabry lab, show signs of EPO. In its Thursday, August 23 issue [sic], [French sports daily newspaper] L’Equipe gave proof. However, on his Web site the Texan continues to deny having used performance enhancing drugs.
Often suspected, never testing positive. Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour winner, now finds himself in the spotlight for something other than his athletic exploits. The newspaper L’Equipe, using official documents, demonstrates that the American did use performance enhancing products in 1999, during his first conquest of the Tour de France.
Four months of investigation by the sports daily have turned up this evidence. The facts are indisputable: the leader of the Discovery Channel team, for six seasons at the head of the US Postal team, regularly used prohibited products in 1999 and thus lied about his non-consumption during competition. Six times, during the controls carried out at the end of his victorious prologue at Puy-du-Fou, on July 3, 1999, and the stages of Montaigue - Challans (1st), Grand-Bornand - Sestrières (9th), Sestrières - L'Alpe d'Huez (10th), Saint-Galmier - Saint-Flour (12th) et Castres - Saint-Gaudens (14th), his samples show signs of this synthetic hormone, which, by increasing the number of red blood cells, allows better muscular oxygenation and possible performance enhancement that physiologists estimate at 30% maximum. These analyses were carried out by the Châtenay-Malabry laboratory, the lab that developed the EPO detection process. The lab worked, starting in 2004, on samples taken and frozen between 1998 and 1999, a time when the use of EPO was common practice among the pack. Scientists were aiming to improve their detection methods, not trying to control the urine of sprinters years later.
In total, twelve samples were analyzed by the famous laboratory with this exclusively experimental goal. Six came from Armstrong, six from unidentified sprinters. As proof, the newspaper published Lance Armstrong’s control reports on which are the numbers corresponding to the positive samples.
“Until otherwise proven, no anti-doping control practiced on the American’s person since the 2000 Tour had ever come out positive. And this affair should paradoxically not have any disciplinary consequences,” the sports daily stressed, showing that it was not an issue of imposing sanctions. The conditions under which the positive controls of these samples were revealed do not allow the UCI to take disciplinary action. But the affair could not however remain unexamined. The World Anti-doping Agency is, in fact, studying the possibility of legal recourse. This same file could also land in the hands of the American arm of that agency, the USADA, which proved itself in the Balco affair by sanctioning athletes that hadn’t previously tested positive. Even if these different possibilities for recourse do not come to pass, these revelations nevertheless tarnish Lance Armstrong’s image and stir up doubt about his six other victories.
The sprinter’s attorney, Donald Manasse, contacted by the daily, indicated that he was able to speak briefly with Lance Armstrong, who is currently in the United States, but that Armstrong did not want to comment “on the spot” without having “been able to examine what was said in the newspaper.” His reaction was not long in coming and he chose his Web site to express himself.
The American has not changed his discourse a bit, repeating his claims of innocence:
“Yet again, a European newspaper has reported that I have tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. Tomorrow’s L’Equipe, a French sports daily, is reporting that my 1999 samples were positive. Unfortunately, the witch hunt continues and tomorrow’s 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."[Lance Armstrong's Official Site - Requires Free Registration]
After his victorious fight against testicular cancer and his return to the pack, Lance Armstrong, despite suspicions, has always vehemently denied having used any doping products. On the one occasion the American champion tested positive, during the 1999 Tour, he was cleared after his US Postal team produced a medical certificate showing that he had used a pomade [a waxy hairstyling gel] containing a forbidden corticoid.
“I want to send a message to all those who don't believe in cycling. To all the cynics. I feel sorry for you. I'm sorry you can't believe in miracles,” the American champion said at the end of the last stage on the Champs Elysées in Paris on July 24 before retiring from the sport. To be continued.