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Friday, June 2, 2006
WADA chief disagrees with report that clears Lance

Associated Press

MONTREAL -- World Anti-Doping Agency chairman Dick Pound said Friday that a Dutch investigator's report clearing Lance Armstrong from doping allegations made by a French newspaper is full of holes.

"They put as fact things that are suppositions, suspicions and possibilities," Pound said.

Pound said WADA has "completely rejected" the report written by lawyer Emile Vrijman for the International Cycling Union (UCI). The report defended Armstong against accusations that he used performance-enhancing drugs at the 1999 Tour de France.

He said the report had so many factual errors that "pointing them out would probably take as much space as the [132-page] report." WADA will consider legal action against Vrijman and "any organization, including UCI, that may publicly adopt its conclusions."

Pound said a complete, independent investigation was needed to determine whether the seven-time Tour champion used endurance-boosting erythropoietin, or EPO.

The cycling union appointed Vrijman in October to investigate the handling of urine samples from the 1999 Tour by a French anti-doping lab. His report released Wednesday exonerated Armstrong "completely" of any doping infractions.

The Paris-based sports daily L'Equipe reported in August that six of Armstrong's samples tested positive for EPO. After the Vrijman report was released, the newspaper ran an editorial saying it stood by its original story.

There was no reliable test for EPO in 1999, but urine samples were preserved and analyzed later when improved testing technology was developed.

Pound said the UCI appeared to be more concerned with how the tests became public than whether Armstrong tested positive. He said other tests from the 1999 race were also positive, but names of the riders were never released.

It should be in the UCI's interest to make positive tests known to keep up the sport's credibility, he added.

Armstrong has denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs.

The American rider said this week he was the victim of a "witch hunt" by Pound, WADA, the French lab, the French ministry of sport, L'Equipe and Tour de France organizers to tarnish his reputation.

The Vrijman report found the tests were conducted improperly and that it was "completely irresponsible" to suggest they constitute evidence of doping.

It added that the French lab violated rules on athlete confidentiality by making public comments on the allegations and recommended a tribunal be convened to look at possible legal and ethical violations by WADA and the French lab.

Vrijman said no proper records were kept of the frozen samples and there was no way to determine if they had been tampered with.

Pound said the report was prepared by "a Dutch lawyer with no expertise" in doping control.

A WADA statement on Friday said the Vrijman report was "so lacking in professionalism and objectivity that it borders on the farcical."

It added that Vrijman's report was defamatory to WADA and the French anti-doping lab that tested Armstrong's samples.

And WADA expressed "astonishment that the UCI would expect anyone to have the slightest confidence in the objectivity, methodology, analysis or conclusions of such a report."