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Lappartient says Armstrong not welcome at Flanders

ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — New UCI president David Lappartient won’t be rolling out the red carpet for Lance Armstrong’s expected return to Flanders this spring.

Armstrong has been invited to a high-profile event scheduled on the same weekend as the Tour of Flanders in April, but Lappartient insists the banned-for-life Texan won’t be allowed to attend any official function associated with the Belgian monument.

“He is banned for life, and that means it is not possible to come on the Tour of Flanders,” Lappartient told reporters Saturday. “I reminded [organizers] that the Tour of Flanders is sanctioned by the UCI. Armstrong still has a passport and he can travel. Of course, I cannot stop him from traveling to Belgium and to meet with people on an event on Friday night.”

Lappartient confirmed he’s been in contact with Flanders Classics promoter Wouter Vanderhaute to press the UCI’s posture on the Armstrong invitation. Organizers assured Lappartient that Armstrong won’t be on the race, and will only attend auxiliary events scheduled over the race weekend, Lappartient said.

The upshot is that the UCI’s tough stance on Armstrong remains in place under Lappartient’s new presidency and that Armstrong remains unwelcome at any UCI-sanctioned event as part of his lifetime ban handed down in 2012.

“We want to show the clean sport, and Armstrong is not the image of clean sport,” he said. “I remember the time when Lance was trying to demonstrate he was a clean athlete, so I do not really trust this guy.”

Last month, Vanderhaute announced that Armstrong would be invited to a gala dinner on Friday of the weekend of the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Vanderhaute said it was time to “welcome back” Armstrong.

“I think it’s good that we continue to honor champions like Laurent Jalabert and Richard Virenque, so why shouldn’t we welcome Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich back into our big cycling family as well?” Vanderhaute said in December. “To him, this will also be a return to cycling, and as far as I am concerned, he is very welcome.”

More than a few have wondered why Armstrong appears to be singled out while other confessed or convicted doper cheats such as Bjarne Riis and Alexander Vinokourov are still active in cycling.

The reason is a discretionary rule introduced in 2011 that allows the UCI to prohibit riders involved in major doping offenses from re-entering the sport in an official capacity such as sport directors, agents, doctors, managers and other jobs. Riders caught up in doping scandals before that cannot officially be stopped from working within cycling with jobs requiring UCI licenses.

“We have a rule if you have a sanction since 2011 you cannot come back to the sport,” Lappartient said. “We have to look at the future of our sport. I don’t think we can look forward with all these bad stories from the doping era.”

Froome case ‘bad for cycling’

Lappartient also said the UCI will reserve its right to appeal any decision surrounding Chris Froome.

“We will have the right to make an appeal at the end of the procedure,” he said. “I hope it will be sorted before the Giro, but I do not know how long it will take.”

Lappartient echoed earlier comments he made about Froome, saying he would prefer if Froome would sideline himself, but also said the UCI and others must respect Froome’s “right to defend himself” after testing for high levels of Salbutamol.

“It is bad for the image of cycling. This is the most famous athlete in our sport. I hope for the good of our sport that he is not guilty and that it was an accident,” the Frenchman said. “He has the right to race, and I cannot stop him. This procedure will take some time. Of course, I would prefer to short process, but I cannot do anything about how long it would take.”

Lappartient said he urged Team Sky to join the MPCC (Mouvement pour un Ciclisme Credible), a volunteer organization that calls for riders to be sidelined during ongoing investigations.

Lappartient also said he recently met with WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) to tighten the rules surrounding the use of corticoids and work on banning the painkiller Tramadol.

“In general, cycling is moving in the right direction,” he said. “This [Froome] case also proves that whoever the rider, we are doing the job to have a clean sport. We want the people to trust our sport. There is nothing like the era of Armstrong. We have 1,000 riders, but we want them to know that we will catch them if they are cheating.”

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