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Suspicious Minds May Never Believe Armstrong Is Clean

Old 07-02-04, 11:49 AM
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Suspicious Minds May Never Believe Armstrong Is Clean

Suspicious Minds May Never Believe Armstrong Is Clean
By GEORGE VECSEY
New York Times July 2, 2004

Liège, Belgium

It has come to this: The other day an Italian cyclist, Danilo Di Luca, was placed under investigation by the police in his country for suspicion of doping.

Di Luca promptly pulled the same tactic all of us tried in the third grade: Teacher, how come I have to stand in the corner? Why don't you do something about that naughty Lance?

The answer, and quite rightfully so, was that the authorities do not have anything on Lance Armstrong - and not for lack of trying.

French officials publicly and fervently haunted him for a couple of years before admitting they had nothing.

Nevertheless, Armstrong and cycling are shadowed by a cloud as vile as the cigarette smoke in the Tour pressroom.

The toxic reality of drugs in cycling will be present for the next three weeks as Armstrong tries to win his sixth straight Tour de France.

Cycling has brought this gloom upon itself, just as baseball and track and field in the United States have failed to acknowledge the chiseled new physiques and dubious mathematical curves of recent records.

"Doping is a financial godsend; there's a lot of money in doping," Jean-Marie Leblanc, the Tour director, told The Associated Press recently. He could have been talking of other sports, too.

It has come to this: A constant factor in the Tour are the medical orderlies known among the riders as the vampires.

This year the vampires have upgraded their testing of blood samples during the race, rather than rely on urine samples and periodic checking of red blood cells, which was not considered proof of doping.

Yesterday, they tested 189 riders between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. and the resulting numbers busted one, Gorka González of the Basque Euskaltel-Euskadi team.

And the vampires are here to stay, as ubiquitous as the daily publicity caravan that honks and toots its way ahead of the cyclists.

Armstrong faces suspicion partly because he has been so successful.

Last month, he was driven to take legal action, filing a libel suit in London against the British co-author of a new book that accuses him of having used banned performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong is suing David Walsh, the co-author of "L.A. Confidentiel: Les Secrets de Lance Armstrong," which was published in June in France, as well as The Sunday Times of London, where Walsh is the chief sportswriter. The Sunday Times published a news report about the book.

Now, questions will come up every time he appears before a microphone.

Yesterday, a subdued Armstrong gave a one-man news conference, showing either doubt or humility about his prospects of winning this Tour.

"I can just flat-out lose to a better rider," Armstrong, 33, said yesterday.

He virtually conceded the vital time trial up the L'Alpe d'Huez, on July 21, to his Spanish rival, Iban Mayo. He also said he would not wear the traditional leader's outfit in the prologue tomorrow because "I haven't earned the yellow jersey."

Armstrong did have some bristle left in his system, particularly after he spied one of the authors, Walsh, a prize-winning writer for The Sunday Times of London, in the audience.

"I'll say this," Armstrong replied to a question about the book. "In my view, extraordinary accusations demand extraordinary proof. In four or five years, they have not come up with extraordinary proof." He added that he would "spend whatever it takes" to fight the charges.

Walsh has documented that in 1999 Armstrong tested positive for Triamcinolone, a banned substance containing steroids. Armstrong said the substance was in a cream he had used to combat saddle sores, and he was not penalized.

Armstrong's attempt to stop the sale of the book remains in court. He said the furor had not affected his preparation, but he has clearly given thought to the number of riders who are vanishing before the ritual four-mile prologue around Liège tomorrow.

"It's a difficult predicament," he said. "I'm going to withhold judgment, but it does go against innocent-before-proven-guilty." He added that cycling is becoming "more aggressive toward drugs."

It has come to this: The other day, a Scottish cyclist named David Millar, the world time-trial champion, went out to dinner with friends in the French city of Biarritz. The police popped in, told the chef to hold monsieur's order, and took Millar away. For two days.

Assuming the French police used methods somewhat more genteel than Abu Ghraib tactics, they nevertheless claimed to have discovered traces of EPO, an illegal blood-enhancing drug, in his home. Yesterday, Millar, already dropped from the roster of his French team, Cofidis, told a judge he had used a performance-enhancing drug, The Associated Press reported.

He remains under investigation as part of an inquiry into the possible use of banned substances by the Cofidis team, the A.P. reported. Cycling's own lack of prudence has led to decades of rumor, scandal, ineligibility and even death. For better or worse, the cloud follows this most appealing and fascinating athlete, this survivor of cancer, who has caught the world's attention through his championships and his charity. In some American sports, this will sound quite familiar.
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Old 07-02-04, 08:32 PM
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hope lance beats em again this year too,theres always someone somewhere thats going believe hes doping ,it will never end.
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