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Armstrong defends Ferrari friendship

Lance Armstrong said Saturday he considers banned Italian doctor and cycling coach Michele Ferrari a good friend but insisted they are no longer working together.

Speaking at an off-road triathlon competition, seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong defended his relationship with Ferrari and the doctor’s son, but denied he was receiving any professional guidance from them.

“Those guys are my friends. That is not going to change,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong was critical of a report in an Italian newspaper linking Ferrari, who is banned by Italian cycling, to a doping ring. Ferrari was Armstrong’s adviser for years while the American competed in the Tour de France, but the two severed professional ties seven years ago.

Ferrari has denied the accusations in a report published by the newspaper Corriere della Sera.

The Ferrari family issued a statement that said Michele’s son, Stefano, operates a website that provides advice to cyclists and that Armstrong is one of the people they help.

But Armstrong said the Ferraris are just friends and he receives no assistance from them.

“To be honest, I’m totally immune to any controversy,” Armstrong said. “I’ve been listening to this stuff for 15 years.”

Armstrong then rebuked reporters for asking questions about the latest doping issue to hit the sport of cycling.

“It’s no accident they leaked that this week. It’s just the clowns on the other side just capitalizing on all you guys standing here. And you guys fall right into it,” he said.

Armstrong settled for fifth place in Saturday’s XTERRA off-road triathlon, which was won by France’s Nico Lebrun in two hours, 24 minutes and 26 seconds.

Armstrong was five minutes behind Lebrun in 2:29:25 while Melanie McQuaid of Canada won the women’s title. Competitors took part in a 1,500-meter swim, 28.4 kilometre (17.7 mile) off-road bike ride then a 9.8 km trail run.

Related: Coverage of the XTERRA event on Triathlete.com

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