GENEVA, Feb 24, 2009 (AFP) – World Anti-Doping Agency president John Fahey on Tuesday praised Lance Armstrong’s comeback and the “phenomenal” interest the US cyclist generated for cycling and the campaign against cancer.
Fahey, who was operated on for lung cancer in 2001, applauded Armstrong’s own personal struggle against cancer and the donations the US cyclist whipped up for the disease during his comeback from retirement at Australia’s Tour Down Under last month.
“It was nothing short of phenomenal, the interest he was able to generate in the Tour Downunder,” Fahey told journalists after being asked about his feelings on Armstrong.
“As a person that suffered from cancer, how could I not support anyone, whether it be Armstrong or anybody else, who was able to bring a response of that nature, and awareness and funding.”
“I applaud that aspect of his comeback wholeheartedly,” the former Australian politician added.
“Certainly he created a sporting phenomenon the like of which Australia hasn’t seen for a long time.”
Armstrong has been dogged by unproven doping allegations in his career.
Fahey’s comments contrasted with those of his predecessor at WADA, Dick Pound, who repeatedly clashed with the US rider.
Pound was rebuked by Olympic officials in 2007 after he suggested that Armstrong took the blood-doping substance erythropoietin (EPO) during the 1999 Tour de France.
“I’m also aware of the rumours,” Fahey explained Tuesday, reiterating that an eight year statute of limitations for alleged doping cases meant that “the samples of 1999 are now out of sight.
“That doesn’t prevent Mr Armstrong, to dispel any doubts, voluntarily consenting to the French laboratory undertaking the analysis of those samples,” he added. Tests for EPO did not exist ten years ago.
Fahey added that he was following Armstrong’s comeback.
“One can only do that in a fair way and observe what occurs.”
The seven times Tour de France winner has insisted that his return to cycling will include a stringent personal anti-doping programme, and that he will continue to post results of his personal drug tests online.
Photo by: VeloImages / Bicycle.net