By VeloNews Interactive Wire ServicesCopyright AFP 2001
Lance Armstrong defended his relationship with Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari, who suspected of doping, during a press conference in Pau, France, during the July 23 rest day at the Tour. Armstrong also called for testing on growth hormones to become a priority of scientists working in the anti-doping field.
The Texan was adamant that if Ferrari — who is set to stand trial in Italy in September for sports fraud and administering dangerous substances — was not convicted, he would continue working with him. “Absolutely,” Armstrong told AFP.
Ferrari was investigated by Italian magistrates after his work with EPO (erythropoietin), which delays fatigue by increasing blood oxygenation, involving top athletes hit the headlines. He is a former protege and later competitor of alleged doping pioneer Professor Francesco Conconi, who is also subject to a judicial investigation.
But Armstrong – the Tour’s most respected rider and who claims to be the cleanest – said that in his eyes, and for the moment, Ferrari is innocent.
“He’s a clean man in my opinion, let there be a trial. Let the man prove himself innocent. If there’s a conviction we will re-evaluate the relationship but until then, my friend, I see him as innocent.
“How can I prosecute a man whom I’ve never seen do anything guilty.”
Armstrong, the current race leader whose team are also still under investigation by French magistrates in relation to last year’s Tour de France, added: “Let there be a U.S. Postal affair in France. Let U.S. Prove ourselves innocent.”
The whole U.S. Postal team fell under suspicion after last year’s Tour after bags containing blood booster Actovegin were allegedly found in a bin after being dumped by the team. U.S. Postal were forced to submit urine and blood samples, and although the urine samples proved negative, the case against the American team is ongoing.
Armstrong persisted: “The urine samples are clean but the case is still open. But if the urine samples are clean, and the blood samples are clean — what more do you want?
Armstrong — on course to become the first American to win three consecutive Tour titles — called for the detection of as yet untested products, including growth hormones, to be introduced.
“There’s always going to evolution in the world of medicine and there will always be speculation that athletes are using those drugs, but I encourage scientists to pursue the tests to combat that.
“I cannot prove a (how I tested) negative, so it’s always going to be a tricky situation when they find a test for one thing and somebody stands up and says ‘you must be doing (using) the next thing’. It goes on and on and on.”
The Texan, who recovered successfully from testicular cancer in 1998 to go on and win his first Tour a year later, and again in 2000, said: “I can tell you personally, why would anyone in my position and with my health history take anything like that? There’s no way, no way … “
Armstrong said that present testing on the Tour was adequate, and suggested that some of the methods used by team doctors to replenish riders in the world’s toughest endurance bike race should not be frowned upon.
“Can a rider do a three-week stage race like this and not have an IV (intravenous) drip if he’s depleted after a long mountain stage to replenish his body, to rehydrate his body – I don’t think so.
“Should that be considered doping because there’s a syringe involved? I don’t think so either. But we have to be precise between curing a person or helping a person recover and doping.”
Copyright AFP 2001