PIC BY TIM DE WAELE
On past evidence, Lance Armstrong will spend today either briefing his legal henchmen or greasing his non-stick reputation as authors David Walsh and Pierre Ballester prepare to unleash their latest challenge to the legitimacy of his seven Tour de France victories.
The sequel to Walsh and Ballester controversial 2004 expose LA Confidential will hit French bookstores tomorrow. Released under the title "LA Officiel: the anatomy of a scandal", the book promises twelve new eye-witness accounts and previously unseen evidence from court cases involving Armstrong.
Details of the book's precise allegations are currently sketchy, but one passage reportedly sees Australian dope-testing expert Michael Ashenden voice his doubts about Armstrong's performances. The tone of a communique by editors La Editions la Martiniere suggests that Walsh and Ballester have redoubled their efforts to discredit Armstrong.
"Beyond the web of deception that Lance Armstrong spun around his image," reads the statement, "one has to ask questions about the serious repercussions of this tactic. After the disturbing revelation of a blood-doping network in Spain and the shameful Floyd Landis episode, does elite cycling retain any crumbs of credibility?"
Armstrong has always vehemently denied taking performance-enhancing drugs, most recently in a television interview broadcast earlier this month. Reacting to claims in the New York Times by ex-US Postal man Frankie Andreu and another unnamed former Armstrong disciple that he put pressure on the pair to dope, Armstrong told the Today Show's Ann Curry that the two riders were "dopers [who] should be banned". Armstrong said of Andreu's allegations "In the minds of some people I am sure that [they taint my victories], yeah. In my mind it doesn't. No."
It remains to be seen whether Walsh and Ballester can produce the "smoking gun" which most believed was missing from LA Confidential. What does seem apparent is that, perhaps scarred by libel cases which Armstrong brought after their first book's release, they are treading more carefully this time. It's no doubt for this reason that a first extract published in Le Monde today was absent from editions distributed to England, and inaccessible to anyone wishing to view the article online from the UK.