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UCI report clears Armstrong
By The Associated Press
This report filed May 31, 2006

Dutch investigators cleared Lance Armstrong of doping in the 1999 Tour de France on Wednesday, and blamed anti-doping authorities for misconduct in dealing with the American cyclist.

Armstrong announcing plans to retire in 2005 (file photo)

photo: Casey B. Gibson

A 132-page report recommended convening a tribunal to discuss possible legal and ethical violations by the World Anti-Doping Agency and to consider "appropriate sanctions to remedy the violations."

The French sports daily L'Equipe reported in August that six of Armstrong's urine samples from 1999, when he won the first of his record seven-straight Tour titles, came back positive for the endurance-boosting hormone EPO when they were retested in 2004.

Armstrong has repeatedly denied using banned substances.

The International Cycling Union appointed Dutch lawyer Emile Vrijman last October to investigate the handling of urine tests from the 1999 Tour by the French national anti-doping laboratory, known by its French acronym LNDD.(Read the FULL REPORT)

Vrijman said Wednesday his report "exonerates Lance Armstrong completely with respect to alleged use of doping in the 1999 Tour de France."

The report also said the UCI had not damaged Armstrong by releasing doping control forms to the French newspaper.

The report said WADA and the LNDD may have "behaved in ways that are completely inconsistent with the rules and regulations of international anti-doping control testing," and may also have been against the law.

Vrijman, who headed the Dutch anti-doping agency for 10 years and later defended athletes accused of doping, worked on the report with Adriaan van der Veen, a scientist with the Dutch Metrology Laboratory.

EPO, or erythropoietin, is a synthetic hormone that boosts the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.

Testing for EPO at the Tour de France only began in 2001.

Armstrong had challenged the validity of testing samples frozen for six years, and how they were handled.

Vrijman said a further investigation was needed regarding the leaking of the results to the French paper.

He said a tribunal should be created to "provide a fair hearing" to the people and organizations suspected of misconduct and to decide on sanctions if warranted.

World Anti-Doping Agency chief Dick Pound accused former ICU president Hein Verbruggen of leaking documents about the alleged positive tests to a reporter from L'Equipe. Pound also questioned the union's willingness to fully investigate the allegations.

The anti-doping lab at Châtenay-Malabry has been accused of violating confidentiality regulations.

Mario Zorzoli, the doctor who gave copies of Armstrong's doping control forms to L'Equipe, was suspended by the UCI for one month earlier this year. He has since been reinstated.

The full report was sent to the UCI, the LNDD, the French sports ministry, WADA and Armstrong's lawyer. The International Olympic Committee also had requested a copy.

The accusations against Armstrong raised questions about how frozen samples, routinely held for eight years, should be used.

IOC president Jacques Rogge has said he was willing to have urine samples checked retroactively, but with clear procedures that would have to be set up by WADA.(Read the FULL REPORT)