By Agence France Presse
Cycling’s governing body the UCI has conceded that a leak by one of its own staff was the source of information that formed the basis of a newspaper article alleging that seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong was a drug cheat.
Last August French sports daily L’Equipe carried a front page story headlined “Armstrong’s Lie” suggesting the Texan had used the illegal blood booster EPO (Erythropoietin) during his first Tour win in 1999.
The L’Equipe story charged that traces of banned blood booster EPO had been found on six different occasions in Armstrong’s 1999 urine samples by France’s national doping testing laboratory of Chatenay-Malabry near Paris. Such a revelation is of interest largely because the ’99 Tour was the last in which there was no use or threat of use of a specific test for the presence of EPO.
Now in an embarrassing admission the Union Cycliste Internationale says one of its employees was responsible for giving L’Equipe those confidential testing forms that linked the heretofore anonymous results to Armstrong.
Originally the sport’s governing body had said that it had allowed a member of staff to hand over one dope test sheet because Armstrong had agreed to it.
However now the UCI has conceded that the employee in fact handed over 15 examples and knew that the angle of the article on Armstrong was to show that the Texan had never received prior permission to take medications, including the corticosteroid, which appeared in small amounts in an early drug test in the 1999 Tour. Results of the test showed only trace amounts of the steroid, well below the level needed to trigger a positive. Nonetheless, Armstrong subsequently produced a prescription for the drug, which he said was part of a topical ointment used to treat a saddle sore.
The UCI’s admission was triggered by information it had received from Dick Pound, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency. Following receipt of the information, the UCI held its own internal inquiry. Armstrong has repeatedly denied the allegations outlined in the L’Equipe article.