Thursday, April 9, 2009

Giro Gyrations: Why It's Not Entering France

Coincidence or...?????


March 17th: Lance writes on twitter, "Yet another "surprise" anti-doping control. 24th one. This one from the French authorities. Urine, blood, and hair! Classic.."

March 18th: Lance, on twitter, "I'm hearing from a lot of folks that there's a lot of press clips re: my hair test/drug test yesterday and I was surprised and asking ?'s.", and "First off, I'm never surprised anymore. What does surprise me is that AFLD (Agence Française de Lutte contre le Dopage) feels the need to publicly comment on confidential matters."

April 6th: first reports in Italian press that there was an irregularity in an anti-doping test involving Lance Armstrong on March 17th, in France at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The story says the tests involved blood, urine and hair samples.


April 7th: France's L'Equipe has reported that AFLD, which conducted the March 17 out-of-competition test, submitted a report to the International Cycling Union (UCI) and WADA on March 30. The report apparently details the abnormal behaviour observed before and during the surprise visit from the French agency.

April 7th: Lance writes, "Outrageous reports yesterday coming out of France allege that I “misbehaved” during a recent unannounced drug test performed by the French government while I was training in southern France in early March. The test in question was my 24th unannounced drug test, since I announced my return to cycling last fall. The first 23 of those tests were performed without any questions and all have been returned negative. This 24th test, which included a blood test, a urine test, and a test of a substantial quantity of my hair, was also negative.I returned home that day after a long training ride to find a man chasing me as I rode up to the house. He stopped me and told me he was from the French laboratory and was here to test me. I had never heard of labs or governments doing drug testing and I had no idea who this guy was or whether he was telling the truth."

April 8th: The complete statement from Lance regarding a report that was filed by a representative of the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) stating that the American acted in a strange manner on the occasion of the out-of-competition test, his 24th control since returning to the sport last year:
"Outrageous reports yesterday coming out of France allege that I 'misbehaved' during a recent unannounced drug test performed by the French government while I was training in southern France in early March.

The test in question was my 24th unannounced drug test since I announced my return to cycling last fall. The first 23 of those tests were performed without any questions and all have been returned negative. This 24th test, which included a blood test, a urine test, and a test of a substantial quantity of my hair, was also negative.

I returned home that day after a long training ride to find a man chasing me as I rode up to the house. He stopped me and told me he was from the French laboratory and was here to test me. I had never heard of labs or governments doing drug testing and I had no idea who this guy was or whether he was telling the truth.

I've been tested in-competition and out-of-competition by USADA, by WADA, by the UCI, and by testing authorities at all the events in which I have competed, but I was unaware that in France the government tests athletes and takes the position it can test any athlete residing in or visiting France. I also had never heard of a laboratory (as opposed to an anti-doping organization) sending testers to collect samples.

We asked the tester for evidence of his authority. We looked at his papers but they were far from clear or impressive and we still had significant questions about who he was or for whom he worked. I was there with Johan Bruyneel and two other people. We told the tester we wanted to check with the UCI to confirm who he was and to make sure he wasn't just some French guy with a backpack and some equipment to take my blood and urine.

Johan stayed with him and in his presence called the UCI to find out what was going on. We asked if it was OK for me to run inside and shower while they made their calls and the tester said that was fine.

As soon as they completed the phone calls, which took about 20 minutes, we started the tests. Johan had confirmed with the UCI that the tester had authority from the French government to take samples. I immediately provided blood, urine and hair samples – all the samples that he requested, as he requested. All this was done within 20 minutes of returning home from my ride and finding the tester at my home.

I did not try to evade or delay the testing process that day. I had just returned from an all day training session, wasn't sure who this French man at my home was, and as soon as the UCI confirmed that he was authorised to conduct the tests, I let him take all the samples he requested.

The drug collection forms we both signed state that we started the testing just 20 minutes after I arrived home. In addition, the form asked the tester to state if there were any irregularities or further observations from the testing process and to that he wrote "no". I have learned that after the tests were all negative, the laboratory has now suggested that the 20-minute delay should be investigated.

I find it amazing that I've been tested 24 times without incident and the first test I do in France results in more outrageous allegations and negative leaks to the press. This is just another example of the improper behaviour by the French laboratory and the French anti-doping organisations.

I am sorry that they are disappointed that all the tests were negative, but I do not use any prohibited drugs or substances. As always, I'm available anytime and anywhere to be tested. It is this sort of behaviour that hurts the entire system and causes me and many other athletes to call for reforms in general and an improvement in the conduct of French laboratories and authorities in particular."

April 8th: Giro d'Italia organizers announce that Stage 10 has been modified and will no longer enter France (http://italiancyclingjournal.blogspot.com/2009/04/stage-10-cuneo-pinerolo-modified.html)


April 9th (per http://www.cyclingnews.com/): Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong could soon face disciplinary proceedings from the French anti-doping agency AFLD, following what it says was improper behaviour during an anti-doping test carried out on 17 March 2009.

In a statement issued today, the AFLD said that Armstrong did not obey the rules of the World Anti-doping Agency's International Standard of Testing, specifically Article 5.4.1, which states that the person being subjected to an anti-doping control must remain within the sight of the doping control officer from the time of notification until the sample is collected.

The AFLD release stated that the UCI has already confirmed its right to open disciplinary proceedings against the American. "Via a letter dated April 8 sent to the Agency, President Pat McQuaid has, in his response, stated that the combined interpretation of the world [WADA] code and UCI anti-doping regulation conferred upon the AFLD the jurisdiction to open possible disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Lance Armstrong."

The WADA code article in question states, "when initial contact is made, the ADO [anti-doping official], DCO [doping control organisation] or Chaperone, as applicable, shall ensure that the Athlete and/or a third party (if required in accordance with Clause 5.3.8) is informed.... of the Athlete's responsibilities, including the requirement to... remain within direct observation of the DCO/Chaperone at all times from the point of notification by the DCO/Chaperone until the completion of the Sample collection procedure."

Earlier this week, Armstrong responded to news that the AFLD had raised objections to the incident. He issued a statement saying that while he and team manager Johan Bruyneel were attempting to verify the validity of the person requesting the samples, Armstrong was permitted to leave.

"We told the tester we wanted to check with the UCI to confirm who he was and to make sure he wasn't just some French guy with a backpack and some equipment to take my blood and urine.

"Johan stayed with him and in his presence called the UCI to find out what was going on. We asked if it was OK for me to run inside and shower while they made their calls and the tester said that was fine."

The AFLD statement directly contradicts this, saying that, "Mr Armstrong, despite being repeatedly warned by the examiner, did not meet the obligation to remain under direct and permanent observation."

As the national anti-doping agency, the AFLD has the authority to test all athletes on French soil, the AFLD has the authority to test all athletes on French soil, regardless of where their licence is registered. This is the same international rule that permitted CONI to carry out anti-doping tests during last year's Tour de France when the race visited Italy, and also enables USADA to carry out tests on riders at races such as the Tour of California.

Today's news is significant as the AFLD could potentially ban Armstrong from competing on French soil. If this is upheld against all appeals, this would rule out his bid for an eighth Tour de France crown this summer.

Armstrong would however be able to ride the Giro d'Italia. The race organisers yesterday announced a modification to the route of stage 16 (ed. note: correct stage is 10), which now no longer crosses the border to France.


April 9th: Lance writes on twitter, "Was winning the Tour seven times that offensive?!?"


Stories for the Italian Cycling Journal welcome; contact veronaman@gmail.com

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