The seven-time Tour de France winner blasts a French newspaper report

By Todd Peterson
Updated August 25, 2005 02:15 PM
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Lance Armstrong went on the offensive Wednesday, and this time he wasn’t on his bicycle.

The seven-time Tour de France champion condemned the latest allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs during at least one of his Tour wins, the Associated Press reports.

Armstrong was responding to charges by the French sports paper L’Equipe, which once again raised the allegations in a story it published Tuesday. The paper claimed it had received the results of a urine test conducted by a suburban Paris lab on a frozen sample Armstrong had provided prior to the 1999 Tour.

In its story, L’Equipe claimed that Armstrong’s samples tested positive for the drug EPO (erythropoietin), a banned substance that boosts red blood cells. In 1999 there was no effective way to test for EPO, so race officials had to take riders at their word.

At first Armstrong refused to comment when the paper’s story appeared beyond a statement on his Web site, but he apparently changed his mind after tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc said that he and other race fans had been “fooled” by Armstrong.

“He owes explanations to us and to everyone who follows the Tour,” Leblanc said. “We were all fooled.”

But Armstrong, who was in Washington, D.C., immediately challenged Leblanc’s accusations, stating that he had spoken with the tour director, and that Leblanc had not said anything to him personally about the results, AP reports.

Also at issue is the testing, which Armstrong contends may have been tampered with. Riders produce two sets of samples to cross-check the testing, and only the “B” sample is available now.

Further complicating matters is the fact that the samples weren’t marked by names, but only by numbers. The lab that produced the positive result said that it could not definitively link Armstrong to that result. However, L’Equipe published medical records from Armstrong with the same identifying number as on the positive result.

Armstrong said that the lab had a duty to protect the anonymity of the samples and added that any assertion that he had lied to fans was “preposterous.” “I’ve been doing this a long time,” Armstrong said. “We have not just one year of only ‘B’ samples; we have seven years of ‘A’ and ‘B’ samples. They’ve all been negative.”

Armstrong also said that he was considering legal action against the Tour officials and sports ministries who may have cooked up the story themselves.

“We’re considering all our options,” said Armstrong, who will appear on Larry King Live Thursday night to discuss the controversy.