USA Cycling defends champion Armstrong
WASHINGTON: USA Cycling's chief operating officer Steve Johnson has lashed out at the recent doping allegations made against seven-times Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
French newspaper L'Equipe alleged last week that Armstrong's urine samples contained the banned blood-boosting substance EPO (erythropoietin) in 1999, the first year he won the world's greatest cycle race.
American Armstrong has denied ever taking performance-enhancing drugs during his career and has never failed a dope test.
"This isn't a 'doping positive,'" Johnson told Reuters on Tuesday by telephone from USA Cycling's headquarters in Colorado Springs.
"This is just a publication in a French tabloid newspaper. That's our perspective.
"To me, this is an issue for the French people. They seemed very concerned about it and frankly I don't care what they think. And I don't think Lance does either."
There were no tests in 1999 to detect EPO, a drug that increases the level of red blood cells and endurance.
However, samples from the 1999 Tour were kept and have been recently retested by an anti-doping laboratory in Chatenay-Malabry outside Paris.
"WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and the US Anti-Doping Agency, they've all defined a process for collecting samples, managing samples, testing the samples, identifying the people who are involved," said Johnson.
"They have certain rights in the process. None of that has been followed in this case."
Officials from cycling's ruling body, WADA, the French sports ministry and the Tour de France all agree normal anti-doping proceedings had not been followed.
Chatenay-Malabry laboratory officials concede the tests were carried out for only scientific purposes and had no legal value because only one sample was tested.
"This whole thing isn't a big deal for Americans," said USA Cycling's Johnson.
"What Lance has accomplished is so much bigger than just the Tour de France. That's only part of it."
The 33-year-old Armstrong is known throughout the world not only for his cycling accomplishments but because he has also overcome cancer.
The Texan retired in June after winning his seventh Tour.