Armstrong says he’s victim of ‘setup’; WADA to review lab work

Posted: Friday, August 26, 2005

Lance Armstrong suggested Thursday that he’s the victim of a ‘‘setup,’’ saying he doesn’t trust the French lab that released test results leading to blood doping allegations against him.

Armstrong’s comments came after Dick Pound, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said officials had received the lab results and would review them.

‘‘There’s a setup here and I’m stuck in the middle of it,’’ Armstrong told The Associated Press. ‘‘I absolutely do not trust that laboratory,’’ he said.

The French sports daily L’Equipe reported Tuesday that six urine samples Armstrong provided during his first tour win in 1999 tested positive for the red blood cell-booster EPO.

‘‘If he had one, you could say it was an aberration,’’ Pound said. ‘‘When you get up to six, there’s got to be some explanation.’’

Armstrong, who retired after his seventh straight tour win in July, has angrily denied the L’Equipe report. He also said that while Pound might trust the lab that tested the samples, ‘‘I certainly don’t.’’

On Thursday night, Armstrong elaborated on his distrust of the French laboratory during an appearance on CNN’s ‘‘Larry King Live.’’

‘‘A guy in a Parisian laboratory opens up your sample, you know, Jean Francois so-and-so, and he tests it — nobody’s there to observe, no protocol was followed — and then you get a call from a newspaper that says ‘We found you to be positive six times for EPO.’ Well, since when did newspapers start governing sports?’’

Pound said the lab had asked WADA months ago if the agency was interested in reviewing its findings and that he agreed. He said the agency didn’t expect names to be connected to the findings, but only wanted to see if the leftover samples from 1999 would show riders used EPO.

‘‘They said it’s simply research,’’ Pound said.

Pound said he is waiting for WADA Science Director Olivier Rabin to return from Europe to review the results.

The lab report doesn’t name Armstrong, but shows the results of tests on anonymous urine samples. While L’Equipe said it was able to match Armstrong to the positive samples, Pound said the lab and WADA officials cannot do that.

The French report appears stronger than previous doping allegations raised against Armstrong, Pound said.

‘‘There’s been an awful lot of rumor and accusation about him for a number of years, always of the he-said, she-said variety. This appears — I haven’t seen the documents myself — to have some documentary connection. That’s a lot more serious. It’s got to be taken more seriously,’’ Pound said.

Armstrong and Pound have clashed before on the chairman’s comments about athletes who use drugs.

Pound said he’s unsure whether WADA would have jurisdiction to take any action against Armstrong if the allegations could be proved. WADA didn’t exist until months after the samples were collected in July 1999.

Pound said he was waiting to see if the International Cycling Union would act on the French report.

Armstrong questions the validity of testing samples frozen six years ago, how those samples were handled since, and how he could be expected to defend himself when the only confirming evidence — the ‘A’ sample used for the 1999 tests — no longer exists.

He also charged officials at the suburban Paris lab with violating WADA code for failing to safeguard the anonymity of any remaining ‘B’ samples it had.

‘‘Nowadays, we all want clean sport,’’ Armstrong told King. ‘‘And fortunately, an organization called WADA has come along and has really governed the world of anti-doping. They have set about a protocol and a code that everybody has to live by. And (the lab) violated the code several times.’’

Pound said the lab is accredited by the International Olympic Committee and that he trusts it handled the samples properly.

‘‘It’s one of the top two or three EPO labs in the world,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a very competent laboratory.’’

Pound also questioned the need for two samples to confirm a positive test.

‘‘You can count on the fingers of one hand the times a B sample has not confirmed the result of the A sample,’’ Pound said. ‘‘It’s almost always a delaying tactic.’’

Armstrong said that contradicts WADA’s own drug testing policy.

‘‘For the head of the agency to say he actually doesn’t believe in the code .... if your career is riding on the line, wouldn’t you want a B sample?,’’ Armstrong said. ‘‘The French have been after (me) forever, and ‘whoops!’ there’s no B sample? The stakes are too high.’’

Armstrong told King that he was tested dozens of times during all his Tours, and was under exceptional scrutiny — including right before his final race in June.

‘‘Just a day before the start we had a knock on the door, and the minister of sport had sent a crew down there to collect two samples of urine and two samples of blood,’’ Armstrong said. ‘‘And we checked around and found out that nobody else in the peloton was tested that day. So I can’t say ‘witch hunt’ loud enough.’’

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