Thursday, August 25, 2005

Lance Armstrong: Doping allegations are "slimy journalism"

ETHICALLY SKEWED PROCESS

Lance Armstrong appeared tonight opposite King and Bob Costas in his only planned TV interview to speak to allegations of positive tests for a banned performance-enhancing drug from samples frozen in 1999, which were reported Monday by French sports daily L'Equipe.

Armstrong's assessment of the allegation was unequivocal. "It stinks," he told King and Costas, calling L'Equipe's report of the test results "slimy journalism."

"The testing lab seriously violated WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] protocols." He repeated the same flat statement he's made for seven years, that he never used EPO or any other doping agent during his professional cycling career. Prompted by Costas, Armstrong did agree that EPO was part of his chemotherapy during his epic battle with testicular cancer, but "the last time I used it was late 1996"—well before his first win in the Tour de France in 1999.

Armstrong then listed some of the problems with the lab tests and L'Equipe's allegations.
  • There were 17 "B" samples left from Lance's drug tests, taken at various stages during the 1999 race. EPO takes 2 to 3 weeks to disappear from the body, so if one was positive, all 17 should have been. Yet only 6 were supposedly found positive.
  • Testing protocols were not followed as to monitoring. There is no way to determine now how the samples were handled prior to testing, who had access to them, or even whether the tests were performed correctly. When tests are run during a race, the entire testing process is monitored.
  • No one knows how frozen samples change over time, and that's what the "B" samples are supposed to be for: experimentation. But when they experiment on a "B" sample, the lab is supposed to get permission from the cyclist to experiment, and the results are supposed to remain anonymous, according to WADA protocols. Neither of those protocols were followed. Armstrong suggested that this breach of protocols suggests that other testing protocols may also have been ignored.
  • Although the EPO test was not officially accepted until 2001, it was in use in 2000, and the entire Postal team was tested for the presences of the hormone. In fact, the team was tested four times in surprise random tests outside the racing season. If Armstrong had been skating the edges of testable doping by using this banned substance because it couldn't be detected, they would have caught him in 2000.
  • Armstrong was fast and strong in 1999, but even faster and stronger in 2000 and 2001. Since he certainly wasn't using EPO after the commencement of regular testing for it, as shown by the almost daily negative test results during these Tours, it's more likely the test is in question, rather than his clean results in 1999.


But the strongest reason he gave for discounting the results of the B-sample tests from France was heartfelt and honest, and totally typical of the iconic cancer survivor. "A guy who comes back from arguably, you know, a death sentence," Lance said earnestly, looking directly at Costas, "Why would I then enter into a sport and dope myself up and risk my life again? That's crazy. I would never do that. No. No way."

Armstrong repeatedly said that his focus was no longer on cycling, but on cancer research and survivorship. In a recent visit to President Bush's Crawford ranch, the topic of doping "never came up," according to Armstrong. "I asked him for a billion dollars," for the War on Cancer, he said.




The entire transcript of Armstrong's interview is available for Paceline members at LanceNews. To join Paceline, a free subscription, click on The Paceline at LanceArmstrong.com.

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