Armstrong Hits Back At Special Favors Allegations

by Ryland James

COLMAR, France, July 17, 2009 (AFP) – Lance Armstrong has hit back at allegations that his Astana team are being treated leniently by anti-doping controllers on the Tour de France.

Armstrong, who is bidding to win the Tour for an eighth time, is angry about allegations his team are being treated favorably and insists Astana are being tested more than any other team in the race.

The president of France’s anti-doping agency (AFLD) Pierre Bordry questioned the anti-doping protocol of the International Cycling Union (UCI) last week when they tested Astana.

Bordry said the UCI had been “lenient”. According to reports, anti-doping officials were kept waiting for nearly an hour by Astana in Andorra last week during an early-morning doping control, sparking a wave of criticism.

French Minister for Sport Roselyne Bachelot on Thursday called for a more stringent approach to carrying out the doping controls saying: “There should be no repeat of the incident.”

But Armstrong insists his team have nothing to hide and claimed last Saturday’s control by officials at 6am in Andorra was asking too much.

“I actually think it’s ridiculous,” said Armstrong.

“This is the Tour de France and you can’t wake up guys on a day of a mountain stage at 6am.

“There is also a human aspect here.

“Enough is enough, we have had this team for a long time, we have never had a positive control.”

Armstrong insists Bachelot’s comments about leniency are unfounded and he would put Astana’s test results up against any other team in the race.

“I think her comments are slightly political,” said Armstrong.

“She knows that when she makes those comments those are political statements.

“They will get attention and perhaps it will reinforce her commitment to the fight against doping.

“But the facts are the facts, we are controlled more than anyone else in the race.

“We are never tested positive and I would put our biological passports side-by-side with any other team, every day of the week.

“So enough is enough.”

Armstrong has faced unfounded accusations of doping throughout his career, notably when French sports paper L’Equipe claimed in 2005 after his retirement that he had tested positive for banned substances.

L’Equipe said six urine samples from his 1999 Tour victory contained the banned blood-boosting drug EPO (erythropoietin) – claims strongly denied by Armstrong.

And the seven-time Tour de France winner again insisted he has nothing to hide from the doping controllers.

“My only version of what happened is that when they knock on my door, I go down and give the blood,” said Armstrong.

“That is all I know.

“It’s not as if I am looking out my window and see them coming and I stay in my room.

“I think there are people who think that, but that is totally bullshit, that is not the way it works now, or has ever worked.”

With some 500 controls expected to be carried out on the riders over the whole of the three-week long race, Armstrong says riders need their rest and needed to be controlled during reasonable hours.

“Yes, you want the controls, yes, you want a clean event, but it’s the hardest sporting event in the world,” said the American.

“You can’t go and pull guys out of their bed at 6am.

“If I came to your room at 6am, you would start throwing your furniture at me.

“You have to also respect that part of it.”

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