Thursday, June 01, 2006

Lance Armstrong Vindicated

The World Today - Thursday, 1 June , 2006 12:41:00
Reporter: Simon Lauder
ELEANOR HALL: Seven times Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, has accused French authorities of conducting a "witch-hunt" against him, after an independent investigation cleared him of doping.

Dutch investigators have also accused anti-doping authorities of misconduct in dealing with the American cyclist.

And now Armstrong wants action, saying the issue threatens the credibility of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

This report from Simon Lauder.

SPORTS COMMENTATOR: One of the great sporting comebacks of the century - a miraculous performance by Armstrong…

SIMON LAUDER: Three years after being diagnosed with testicular cancer that later spread to his abdomen and his brain, Lance Armstrong was aware his first Tour de France win was hard to believe.

LANCE ARMSTRONG: But this isn't Hollywood and it's not Disney, it's a true story.

SIMON LAUDER: That was 1999 when the endurance-boosting hormone EPO was undetectable.

But the French anti-doping laboratory kept Armstrong's urine samples on ice for several years and last year a French sports newspaper announced the samples had tested positive to doping.

The allegations were strenuously denied.

LANCE ARMSTRONG: I have never doped.

SIMON LAUDER: Now an independent team of Dutch investigators has finished a 132-page report, clearing Armstrong of doping.

It recommends a tribunal be convened to discuss possible legal and ethical violations by the World Anti-Doping Agency, or WADA.

The editor of popular cycling website,, Gerard Knapp, has been watching the case closely.

He believes it's a case of WADA and the International Cycling Union, or UCI, treating the case differently, because of Armstrong's high profile.

GERARD KNAPP: The general tone of the comments coming from WADA was an assumption that he was guilty, even though there was no proof. If you go back to the original reports published by L'Equipe Armstrong's samples were not the only ones that returned a positive result supposedly for EPO. There were four other riders, none of whom were named.

SIMON LAUDER: The report also refers to the need for appropriate sanctions to remedy the violations. What would they be calling for from WADA?

GERARD KNAPP: It was basically the privacy issue here, in that a newspaper journalist was able to obtain what should be considered confidential information, and they would be looking at the way the French lab handled these samples and then in turn UCI providing the doping control forms which allowed the journalist to then identify the rider.

SIMON LAUDER: Do you agree with Lance Armstrong that this issue could destroy or at least damage the credibility of WADA?

GERARD KNAPP: Not necessarily, no. I think that legally that could be a different matter altogether.

SIMON LAUDER: In your view, what should be done now by the relevant agencies?

GERARD KNAPP: Clearly there's a case here that they need to really tighten up their procedures, because what can happen with, if you like, a botched case like this, is that it can weaken the whole process and it will make the pursuit of other dope cheats even harder.

SIMON LAUDER: In a written statement, Lance Armstrong calls the allegations a "witch-hunt" and says the time has come to take action against such attacks.

For its part WADA says the Dutch investigation didn't focus on whether Armstrong's urine samples actually tested positive or not.

EPO also occurs naturally in some athletes and testing is still not definitive, so Lance Armstrong may end up having the last word on the matter, as he indicated when he won the Tour de France for the seventh time last year.

LANCE ARMSTRONG: I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles, but this is one hell of a race. This is a great sporting event and you should stand around and believe.

ELEANOR HALL: Lance Armstrong ending that report from Simon Lauder.

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