France’s anti-doping authority (AFLD) was criticised Friday by cycling chief Pat McQuaid over its handling of the Lance Armstrong ‘shower’ case.
On Thursday the AFLD announced it was pursuing the seven-time Tour de France champion for unprofessional behaviour, claiming the Texan had violated strict dope-testing rules.
Their beef with Armstrong relates to an out-of-competition test last month when the Astana rider took a shower for 20 minutes while the identity of the official who had come calling was verified with cycling’s governing body, the International Cycling Union (UCI).
Armstrong claims he was given permission to shower by the official who turned up after a training ride in the French riviera town of Beaulieu-sur-Mer on March 17.
Although no traces of drugs were found in samples of Armstrong’s hair, urine or blood in what was his 24th test since his comeback last September the AFLD is considering bringing charges against him.
This has angered McQuaid, president of the UCI, who told the BBC: “The French are not acting very professionally in this case. The tester has to have a specific instruction that the athlete must remain under his supervision from the moment he is notified until the test is concluded.
“From my understanding, this was not the case. Lance Armstrong had every right to take a shower while his manager (Astana team head Johan Bruyneel) checked with the UCI that these people had the authority to take these samples.
“During that time his manager rang me and I put him on to our anti-doping manager, who confirmed that it (the AFLD) has the authority to take samples.”
McQuaid said the demand for a sample of Armstrong’s hair was “unusual”.
“That only happens in France, which is for research purposes,” he told the BBC. “Armstrong was concerned whether he (the tester) had the authority to do this.”
The AFLD’s nine-member ruling committee is to meet to decide whether to press ahead and consider punishing Armstrong.
Any sanction would only apply to French territory, which could effect Armstrong’s intended participation in the Tour de France.
McQuaid criticised the AFLD’s handling of the Armstrong case.
“The French authorities decided to make up a report on the testing procedure, forward it to the UCI, knowing the UCI have no jurisdiction on the case and at the same time that report has leaked to the press,” said the former Irish cyclist.
“I would have to question why that is the case.
“Normal proceedings between institutions such as national anti-doping agencies, the international federation and Wada are normally done in a professional and confidential way until a decision or sanction has been taken,” he added. “In this case it was leaked to the press and I do find that disturbing.”
Armstrong, recovering in the US from surgery on a broken collarbone sustained in a fall in a race in Spain, took a tongue in cheek swipe at the French authorities on his Twitter site on Friday.
“I’ve just had a shower, it only took ten minutes!” he announced.
In an earlier submission to his site he wrote: “Feel targeted? Of course. But anything to prove I’m clean.”
Armstrong is hoping to win his race against time to line up for the Giro d’Italia, which starts in Venice on May 9.
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© BikeRadar & AFP 2009