I just received a press release from Lance Armstrong's Manager Mark Higgins concerning Pierre Bodry's proposal to retest samples from the 1999 Tour de France. While conspiracy theorists on either side of the issue will have a field day whatever the results, Lance issued the following statement today.
Today, Mr. Pierre Bodry, the new head of the French anti-doping agency proposed that they retest samples from the 1999 Tour de France. Unfortunately, Mr. Bodry is new to these issues and his proposal is based on a fundamental failure to understand the facts. In 2005, some research was conducted on urine samples left over from the 1998 and 1999 Tours de France. 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.
In addition, the Independent Investigation concluded that the French laboratory, the French Ministry of Sport, and Dick Pound, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, all behaved improperly with respect to the 1999 Tour de France samples. The Independent Investigation concluded that both Mr. Pound and the French laboratory engaged in improper conduct that violated a number of regulations and laws. After the report of the Independent Investigator was issued, Mr. Pound's conduct was submitted to the IOC Ethics Commission and the IOC Ethics Commission censured Mr. Pound.
What the Report of the Independent Investigation did recommend, was that the issues of the conduct of Mr. Pound, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the French Ministry, and the French laboratory should be submitted to an independent tribunal, in particular the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the Court for the entire Olympic movement, to address the issues and improper conduct identified by the Independent Investigator. Two years ago I agreed to have all of these issues aired and decided by that tribunal, but WADA and the French Ministry refused. If Mr. Bodry would now like to re-examine the past, he must start with presenting the issues of the misconduct of the French laboratory, the French Ministry, and WADA before a proper tribunal.
To avoid any questions going forward and to avoid any distractions from my primary purpose to launch a global campaign against cancer, I am working with the man who has been the leader of the world anti-doping community for the past twenty-five years. I approached Dr. Don Catlin in August and proposed to him that he should develop a comprehensive drug testing protocol, to test my blood and urine as often as he believes is appropriate, in order for him to determine categorically whether I have taken any performance-enhancing drugs. As I have stated, I have given Dr. Catlin my permission to post all of my testing results on the internet. Dr. Catlin is developing a protocol that will be available to other athletes who may want to subject themselves to such a rigorous drug testing regimen that Dr. Catlin or other leading anti-doping experts can determine whether they have used performance enhancing drugs.
In 2005 VeloNews reported that Christiane Ayotte, Doping Control Director at Canada's Institut National de la Recherché Scientifique was surprised that samples stored since 1999 could still show evidence of EPO when tested. That had not been the experience in her lab. Now three years on, and a full nine years since the Armstrong samples were taken the French authorities would like to retest. I fully support new protocols that call for long term profiling and storage of samples for future study, but given the particular circumstances around this case, this looks like persecution.
The independent investigator ruled against the French authorities already and this just seems like another attempt to spin the wheel in the hope of getting the result they want. It's a no win situation for Armstrong. If he agreed he'd be throwing out his earlier vindication, and if he declined (which he has today) the innuendo machine can continue its work.
On the road Lance is nothing if not cool and calculating. Frankly I cannot imagine that if he had doped that he would come back to the sport with so much on the line; his legacy; his endorsements; his charity; and most importantly the hundreds of thousands of cancer survivors that continue the fight because of his inspiration. No one with that much spiritual responsibility would risk destroying so many hearts. In their zeal to find fault, I wonder if the French authorities have considered the true human cost of what they are doing? Let it go.