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French paper stands by Armstrong doping reporting

6/1/2006

PARIS -- The French sports newspaper that accused Lance Armstrong of doping stood by its reporting Thursday, a day after an investigator cleared the seven-time Tour de France champion.

"There is nothing to retract from the revelations," L'Equipe said in an editorial that concluded: "For our part, we remain convinced of the need to battle without compromise against the mafialike tendencies that still and always threaten the sport of
cycling. Both in the method and the substance, L'Equipe stands
firm."

The newspaper repeated its allegations of last August that tests
on six of Armstrong's urine samples from the 1999 Tour had detected
an "irrefutable presence" of the banned endurance-boosting
hormone EPO.

The samples "showed that the American did indeed lie by saying
throughout his career, notably at the time in question, that he
never took banned products," the newspaper said.

Dutch investigator Emile Vrijman, who was appointed by cycling's
governing body to investigate the handling of the urine tests by
the French national anti-doping laboratory, cleared Armstrong in a
report released Wednesday.

The report said tests on the urine samples were conducted
improperly and fell so short of scientific standards that it was
"completely irresponsible" to suggest they "constitute evidence
of anything."

The investigation also concluded that the French laboratory that handled the samples and the World Anti-Doping Agency, which is headed by Dick Pound, "violated applicable rules on athlete confidentiality by commenting publicly on the alleged positive findings."

The French lab's director did not return phone calls Wednesday,
and the phone rang unanswered late Thursday afternoon.

Armstrong said the investigation confirmed "what I have been saying since this witch hunt began: Dick Pound, WADA, the French laboratory, the French Ministry of Sport, L'Equipe, and the Tour de France organizers ... have been out to discredit and target me without any basis and falsely accused me of taking performance enhancing drugs in 1999."