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French officials investigate Lance Armstrong and teammates for doping... again


Lance Armstrong riding for Team Astana signs the start list for
the 2009 Giro d'Italia. The Giro was part of Armstrong's build-up
to the controversial 2009 Tour de France where he finished third.
AP Photo/Alessandro Trovati

Update: For further discussion on this article, read the follow-up here.

In 2009 Lance Armstrong came back to France with a new team and new tactics, but French anti-doping officials are up to their old tricks. The French police have been sniffing around Astana's trash like a suspicious bloodhound, desperate to find evidence for a doping case that will stick.

After the 2009 Tour de France, the French police appropriated Astana's discarded syringes, bandages, and other medical supplies from a biological waste firm called Cosmoly. What they found were a "large quantity" of syringes and supplies for intravenous transfusions, which may point to banned-drug use, according to the French newspaper Le Mond.

Team Astana itself has had a checkered history with the Tour. In 2007, the Kazakh-backed team dropped out of the race in disgrace when their star rider, Alexander Vinokourov  of Kazakhstan tested positive for blood doping. Later that year, two more positive tests (one for synthetic testosterone use and another for blood doping) came to light, and Astana was banned from 2008 tour. Despite all this, and even considering that the 2009 Tour champion, Alberto Contador might also be implicated if these medical supplies were to contain any incriminating evidence, this investigation is undoubtedly aimed primarily at Lance Armstrong. For reasons that Armstrong believes have to do with national pride, the French have had it out for the seven-time Tour de France champion since he first won the race ten years ago, according to Armstrong.

In 2002, French officials tried a similar tactic; taking U.S. Postal's discarded biological waste from the remote dumpster where they threw it between stages. Investigators claimed that the syringes would provide evidence of Armstrong's alleged drug use, but lab tests produced no decisive proof. The case was eventually thrown out for lack of evidence, but according to Armstrong in his autobiography Every Second Counts, the French were reluctant to close the case even though they had nothing incriminating on him. Referring to the 2009 suspicions, Armstrong said, “I’m confident that our team has been racing clean."

Armstrong has seen the business end of numerous doping allegations coming from journalists, former teammates, rivals and employees, and even past Tour champions. However, no single accusation has held up to legal scrutiny, and Armstrong's lawyers have fought back tooth and nail in each case. While many may believe Armstrong's defensive behavior is indicative of sinister secrets, Armstrong points out that he is "the most tested athlete in the world." None of his hundreds of in-competition and out-of-competition drug tests have resulted in enough evidence for a successful doping case (although some results have aroused suspision). If he's cheating, he's better at getting away with it than he is at cycling.

The medical supplies recovered from Astana's garbage are being tested at a private Swiss lab called Toxi-Lab. So far they have found no evidence of banned substances, but if any performance-enhancing drugs are detected, the needles will be cross-referenced against riders' DNA and the guilty riders will be banned. Greg Lemond has said, "If Armstrong's clean, it's the greatest comeback. And if he's not, then it's the greatest fraud." If Armstrong is clean, then for the sake of cycling and sports everywhere he should be revealed for what he really is. However, if he is riding dirty, then he is also a criminal genious for avoiding doping convictions after eight Tours under the microscope. If French anti-doping officials were to finally catch Armstrong after a decade of following his every move, it would be like if Wiley Coyote finally caught the Road Runner. As much as you want the coyote to catch the bird, it's hard not to cheer for the artful dodger road runner.

For more info: Read the Sports News article by John Leicester, or the New York Times report by Julia Macur. To find out more about past doping allegations against Lance Armstrong, read Armstrong's own autobiographies, or L.A. Confidential by David Walsh and Pierre Ballester (2004-- not available at US retailers) and From Lance to Landis: Inside the American Doping Controversy at the Tour de France by David Walsh (2007).
Read the follow-up article The polarizing effect of Lance Armstrong for further discussion.


  • Zorro 5 years ago

    I can just encourage the reading of the following article "The polarizing effect of Lance Armstrong" of Claire.

    Lance's doping problem began before his first win, when he became a climber after having only very poor performances loosing around 20mn in each TDF mountain stages.
    Until his Dr. Ferrari day he was never seen as a futur Grand Tour contender.
    So when he led Tour de France in 1999, just after Festina scandal, everyone was very suspicious with a performance very similar to EPO use, therefore serious doping suspicions were born, as noted by Frankie Andreu in his 1999 diary:
    "Lance held his press conference today. ... It was held in an auditorium and there were probably a hundred journalists. There were lots of dumb questions and normal questions. Ironically the first two doping questions came from two American journalists. Lance asserted his innocence and told all the journalists that his racing life, personal life, and health were open to questions."

  • Zorro 5 years ago

    BTW, the most loved french riders of the french is not Hinault, not Fignon, nor Anquetil but that is Poulidor who never won TDF.

    It's difficult to pretend that French were jealous of Lance when French are always suspicious with winners. Live tell us that most leaders or winners have to do a lot of bad thing to "win".

  • Dave 5 years ago

    "French are always suspicious with winners"

    They Loved Greg Lemond. It is not that they do not like winners it is that they do not like arrogant cheaters.

  • jman 5 years ago

    because,it's true....again

  • Honestly 5 years ago

    He wins because he works out and rides his bike 8 hours a day. He's going to winning the Leadville 100 well into his 50's. Millions of people will waste their lives wondering if he cheated instead of enjoying the time they have on this earth...worry about what really matters.

  • Newbie 5 years ago

    Sounds like another pro Lance journalist writing. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck than it is a duck! Lance is one of the largest frauds in modern day sports not to mention a Psychopath. How about the time, Lance, when you passed out in SC and your chiropractor cleared the room? What's up with that? What were you hiding on your arms? Tough questions deserve truthful answers not lawsuits!

  • Honestly 5 years ago

    We could say that the Pope does dope, The President is a double agent, and Area 51 is infested by aliens. But, we have to back it up with evidence. And since non of us are paid to have oppinions on Lance's "drug use", then by definition, we are waisting valuble time that we could be spending with our kids, hobbies, lives, and getting on our own bike and getting off the keyboard.

  • TrustButVerify 5 years ago

    Honestly, why do you spend your valuable time to defend a doper?
    Of course, it's my free opinion to think Lance Armstrong is a doper according all the circumstantial evidences linked to his many doping affairs.
    As said Virenque, to be linked with Ferrari, it's obvious that you dope, so he refused to work (dope) with Ferrari.

  • honestly 5 years ago

    step 1: an official (not newsparper) catches someone violating a rule
    step 2: charge them
    step 3: prosecute them
    step 4: punish them

    if society jumps to step 4 without going thru 1-2-and 3, then we all need to back to the stone age. I prefer the 21st century