France's national anti-doping agency (AFLD) on Wednesday offered to test allegedly suspect samples taken from US rider Lance Armstrong during the 1999 Tour de France. Hours later, Armstrong responded with a written statement (see below).
Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner, announced last month that he is to make a comeback after a three-year absence from the peloton.
During his career, the American has been accused of doping practices on several occasions, most notably in an article in French sports newspaper L'Equipe in 2005 after his retirement.
The daily newspaper claimed six urine samples from his 1999 Tour victory contained the banned blood-boosting drug EPO (erythropoietin) - claims strongly denied by Armstrong.
But AFLD said in a statement released on Wednesday: "The way these samples are preserved and the volume of them mean that you can do an analysis for the
possible presence of EPO on at least five stages of the 1999 Tour de France.
"AFLD offers Lance Armstrong an analysis of his samples from the 1999 Tour de France to prove his good faith."
It added that should the tests come back positive, there could be no anti-doping disciplinary procedures against Armstrong because of the eight-year moratorium on doping offences.
Hours later, Armstrong issued this statement to BikeRadar:
"Today, Mr. Pierre Bodry, the new head of the French anti-doping agency proposed that they retest samples from the 1999 Tour de France. Unfortunately, Mr. Bodry is new to these issues and his proposal is based on a fundamental failure to understand the facts.
In 2005, some research was conducted on urine samples left over from the 1998 and 1999 Tours de France. That research was the subject of an independent investigation, and the conclusions of the investigation were that the 1998 and 1999 Tour de France samples have not been maintained properly, have been compromised in many ways, and even three years ago could not be tested to provide any meaningful results. There is simply nothing that I can agree to that would provide any relevant evidence about 1999.
In addition, the Independent Investigation concluded that the French laboratory, the French Ministry of Sport, and Dick Pound, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, all behaved improperly with respect to the 1999 Tour de France samples. The Independent Investigation concluded that both Mr. Pound and the French laboratory engaged in improper conduct that violated a number of regulations and laws. After the report of the Independent Investigator was issued, Mr. Pound's conduct was submitted to the IOC Ethics Commission and the IOC Ethics Commission censured Mr. Pound.
What the Report of the Independent Investigation did recommend, was that the issues of the conduct of Mr. Pound, the World Anti-Doping Agency, the French Ministry, and the French laboratory should be submitted to an independent tribunal, in particular the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the Court for the entire Olympic movement, to address the issues and improper conduct identified by the Independent Investigator.
Two years ago I agreed to have all of these issues aired and decided by that tribunal, but WADA and the French Ministry refused. If Mr. Bodry would now like to re-examine the past, he must start with presenting the issues of the misconduct of the French laboratory, the French Ministry, and WADA before a proper tribunal.
To avoid any questions going forward and to avoid any distractions from my primary purpose to launch a global campaign against cancer, I am working with the man who has been the leader of the world anti-doping community for the past twenty-five years. I approached Dr. Don Catlin in August and proposed to him that he should develop a comprehensive drug testing protocol, to test my blood and urine as often as he believes is appropriate, in order for him to determine categorically whether I have taken any performance-enhancing drugs.
As I have stated, I have given Dr. Catlin my permission to post all of my testing results on the internet. Dr. Catlin is developing a protocol that will be available to other athletes who may want to subject themselves to such a rigorous drug testing regimen that Dr. Catlin or other leading anti-doping experts can determine whether they have used performance enhancing drugs."