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Doping Row Returns to Haunt Armstrong Again
    2008-10-03 12:03:01     Shanghai Daily/Agencies

Cyclist Lance Armstrong answers a question at a news conference as young rider Tayler Phinney (R) listens during the Clinton Global Initiative, in New York, Sept. 24, 2008.  [Photo: Xinhua/Reuters]

Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has dismissed as irrelevant an offer by an anti-doping authority to test his urine samples from the 1999 race.

France's national anti-doping agency on Wednesday offered Armstrong an analysis of his samples from the 1999 Tour "to prove his good faith," French sports newspaper L'Equipe reported. However, Armstrong, who is coming out of retirement to return to competitive cycling with Team Astana, believes any such test would be meaningless.

"In 2005, some research was conducted on urine samples left over from the 1998 and 1999 Tour de France," the 37-year-old American said in a statement. "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."

Armstrong, who retired after winning the 2005 Tour de France, announced last month that he was returning to the sport and will bid for an eighth Tour victory next year.

Armstrong will be reunited at Astana with Johan Bruyneel, who was the Texan's team director for all his Tour victories with US Postal and Discovery from 1999-2005.

The Astana team is hiring anti-doping expert Don Catlin to supervise a transparent biological monitoring of Armstrong that will be made available online throughout his training and racing.

Bruyneel also said Armstrong may have to accept a supporting role to Alberto Contador in next year's Tour de France. Spain's Contador won the Tour de France, Italy's Giro and Spain's Vuelta in little over a year. "At the end of the day, the strongest rider will be supported, regardless of that person's name or what they've accomplished in the past," Bruyneel said.

Meanwhile, Tour Down Under officials expect to know by Friday whether Armstrong will be able to start his comeback to road cycling in Adelaide in January. Armstrong wants to return to elite racing in the six-day tour in South Australia state, although technically, due to drug testing regulations, he's not eligible to return until February 1, 2009.

The race in Australia runs from Jan. 20-25.

 
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