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Friday’s EuroFile: Court rejects Armstrong appeal; No Olympics for Millar; Mayo softpedals chances; so does Simoni

Lance Armstrong on Friday lost his appeal against a ruling denying him the right to insert a denial against accusations of doping published in a book released last week. The five-time Tour de France winner's lawyer, Christian Charriere-Bournazel, took action over the book "L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong" by award-winning Sunday Times of London journalist David Walsh and Pierre Ballester, a cycling specialist formerly with French sports daily L'Equipe. The book, which alleges Armstrong used banned drugs, focuses on statements attributed to Emma O'Reilly, a soigneur who

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By AFP and Reuters

Lance Armstrong on Friday lost his appeal against a ruling denying him the right to insert a denial against accusations of doping published in a book released last week.

The five-time Tour de France winner’s lawyer, Christian Charriere-Bournazel, took action over the book “L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong” by award-winning Sunday Times of London journalist David Walsh and Pierre Ballester, a cycling specialist formerly with French sports daily L’Equipe.

The book, which alleges Armstrong used banned drugs, focuses on statements attributed to Emma O’Reilly, a soigneur who worked with Armstrong from 1998-2000. O’Reilly claims Armstrong used the banned blood booster EPO.

Armstrong, who starts his bid for a sixth successive Tour de France victory on Saturday, has never tested positive for banned substances and has always strenuously denied taking any such products. —Agence France Press

Millar withdraws from Olympic consideration
David Millar, one of Britain’s best hopes for an Olympic gold medal, has pulled out of the Athens Games in August after admitting to a French judge he had used the banned blood-booster erythropoietin (EPO) in three week-long courses in 2001 and 2003.

Representatives for the British cycling world champion issued a statement on Friday confirming a decision which follows his suspension from competition by the British Cycling Federation.

Millar had hoped to contest at least three events, the time-trial and the road race and, on the track, the team pursuit, during the August Olympics.

The world time-trial cycling champion was placed under formal investigation under France’s anti-drug laws for possession of dangerous substances.

And British Cycling’s acting chief executive Dave Brailsford said they would be investigating the Scot.

“I confirm that David Millar is suspended with immediate effect pending a further investigation and a disciplinary hearing,” he said.

He faces a ban of between eight months and two years. Millar’s sister Frances, also his agent, said Millar wanted to come clean, no matter what the consequence.

“He did not want to live a lie any longer. He has told the judge the truth, but the main thing he wishes to make clear is that this was his individual decision and he has to take responsibility for his decisions.”

The Scot made his admission last week during a two-hour interview in the Paris suburb of Nanterre with Richard Pallain, the judge leading the inquiry into alleged drug-taking within Millar’s Cofidis team.

An admission of doping is regarded by the International Cycling Union as the equivalent of a positive test. But the fact that Millar has never failed a drugs test raises questions about the efficiency of tests for EPO.

“Mr Millar has indicated that he used EPO during ‘courses of treatment’ taken outside France in 2001 and 2003,” said his lawyer Paul-Albert Iwens. “There were a total of three courses of one week. He has not implicated any other individuals.” Millar was training in the French Basque country up to the end of 2003, and it may be that the courses of treatment were taken over the border in Spain.

Millar had already admitted to using EPO during a 48-hour spell of detention for questioning after two capsules used to contain Eprex, a commonly used form of EPO, were found in his apartment when it was searched by police.

As world time-trial champion and a three-time stage winner in the Tour de France, Millar is cycling’s most high-profile casualty of a police drugs investigation since the Festina scandal of 1998. The Tour de France starts on Saturday and many riders might now fear a knock on their hotel door by French police.

The 27-year-old is the ninth Cofidis team member to be placed under investigation in the police inquiry, which began in January after the arrest of a young Polish professional, Marek Rutkiewicz, at Charles de Gaulle airport. Cofidis team manager Francis van Londersele said Millar faced termination from the team.

“He knows the rules – we have zero tolerance in the team – and that’s part of the game,” he added.—Agence France Press

Mayo downplays ‘favorite’ status
Basque climber Iban Mayo (Euskaltel), cited by five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong as one of his main rivals this year, insists he does not consider himself a contender for the victory.

“I’m not a Tour favorite,” he said on Friday at his team hotel. “The media and the fans might think so but I think I can, at best, aim for the podium.

“Unlike Armstrong and (German Jan) Ullrich, I have never won the Tour. I just want to do the best I can, bearing in mind Armstrong will be hard to beat.”

Mayo humbled the American in the recent Dauphiné Libéré race and the course appears to favor him this year, especially with an individual time trial up L’Alpe d’Huez on June 21. In a similar effort at the Mont Ventoux in the Dauphiné, Mayo beat the climb record, leaving Armstrong some two minutes behind.

But the Euskaltel team leader said he would need to have a lead of “at least five minutes” over Armstrong before another time trial, over 55km and in Besancon on the penultimate day, to have a chance to beat him. —Reuters

Simoni keeping quiet, but his boss isn’t
After a poor performance in last year’s Tour de France, Italian rider Gilberto Simoni is more cautious about his chances of winning the 2004 race.

Last year Simoni was convinced he could challenge Lance Armstrong but faded in the mountains and finished 84th, more than two and a half hours behind the American.

“I’m still convinced I’ve got the right characteristics to be a contender at the Tour, but naturally the experience of last year’s race has taught me a lot,” Simoni told Reuters before undergoing his obligatory pre-race medical on Friday.

“I’m going to start the Tour quietly and prudently. I’m going to wait to see what happens in the team time trial, and then I’ll try and understand what I can do day after day. I’d like to win a stage, but I also want to do it without losing sight of the overall classification.”

On another topic, Simoni said he was angry over the organizers’ decision to ban teammate Danilo Di Luca from the Tour. Di Luca, who was among 14 riders charged in a doping investigation by Italian police earlier this year, has been replaced in the race by Swiss David Loosli.

“They’ve only done it to make themselves look good, it’s a load of rubbish,” Simoni said. “Of everybody involved in the allegations of doping, he’s the one who paying the highest price.”

Saeco director Claudio Corti also ripped the decision, saying “it isn’t the right way to defend the image of the Tour de France. It’s a bad day for cycling and for sport.”

“There are a lot of investigations under way in Italy because in Italy there’s a law against doping which doesn’t exist in other countries. This penalizes Italian riders, and I hope we can soon have a European law that harmonizes all the laws on doping.” —Reuters