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UCI launches independent investigation of Armstrong affair

By Agence France Presse

The L'Equipe story isn't going away for a while.

The L’Equipe story isn’t going away for a while.

Photo: AFP (file photo)

Aigle, Switzerland (AP) – The Union Cycliste Internationale has appointed a Dutch lawyer to conduct an independent investigation into allegations Lance Armstrong tested positive for EPO during the 1999 Tour de France.

The cycling body said Thursday that Emile Vrijman and his law firm would “undertake a comprehensive investigation regarding all issues concerning the testing conducted by the French laboratory of urine samples” from the ’99 Tour.

Vrijman’s firm is based in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and he is a former director of the Netherlands’ national anti-doping agency.

In August, the French sports daily L’Equipe claimed six of Armstrong’s urine samples from 1999 came back positive for the endurance-boosting hormone EPO when they were retested last year.

The seven-time Tour de France champion denied ever using banned drugs and said he was the victim of a “witch hunt.”

Another French newspaper, Le Journal du Dimanche, identified other riders who allegedly tested positive for EPO in ’99 as Spain’s Manuel Beltran, Denmark’s Bo Hamburger and Colombia’s Joaquim Castelblanco. They have all since denied the claims.

UCI said Thursday the World Anti-Doping Agency had notified the federation of plans to open its own investigation.

“The UCI is concerned that such an investigation from WADA as an involved party would be based on aspects out of its competencies,” the cycling body said.

“The UCI’s decision to appoint an independent investigator is supported by numerous authorities, both in sports, as well as in anti-doping,” it added. “The UCI expects all relevant parties to fully cooperate with the investigation.”

The leaders of WADA and UCI have been engaged in a bitter feud over the case. Last month, WADA chief Dick Pound accused former UCI president Hein Verbruggen of leaking documents about the alleged positive tests to L’Equipe. He also questioned UCI’s willingness to fully investigate the allegations.

The UCI denied Pound’s accusations and claimed he was blocking its investigation by withholding information.

Cycling did not test for EPO until 2001. Backup “B” samples from 1999 were frozen and tested for EPO last year. Any sanctions are unlikely because the original “A” samples were used up and can’t be verified for confirmation.

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