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Friday, July 17, 2009
Lance lashes out at French minister

Associated Press

COLMAR, France -- Lance Armstrong is fed up with criticism of his Astana team by the French sports minister.

Roselyne Bachelot said Astana riders at the Tour de France remained out of sight of an International Cycling Union inspector too long during a random doping test last week.

"Enough is enough," Armstrong said Friday. "This is ridiculous. We've been controlled more than anybody else on the race. We have had this team for a long time. We've never had a positive control. Yes, we are successful. Yes, we are the strongest team in the race. But enough of the [outcry] in the media."

According to French sports daily L'Equipe, a UCI official drank coffee with officials from Astana in Andorra last Saturday and didn't test the riders for nearly an hour.

"There was a little bit of avoidance going on," Bachelot said Thursday. "I hope it won't happen again."

Armstrong, who says he has been tested more than 30 times since he came back to competition this season, accused Bachelot of being "slightly political."

"Those are political statements, and they help to get attention -- and perhaps it reinforces their commitment to the fight against doping," Armstrong said. "But again, the facts are the facts.

"We are controlled more than anybody else. We are never positive. Our biological passports -- compared to anybody else -- the quote-unquote 'clean teams,' I will put them side by side every day of the week."

Before the race started on July 4 in Monaco, Bachelot had warned Armstrong that he would be "particularly monitored" for doping during the Tour.

The 37-year old Texan said he was always available for doping controls.

"When they knock at my door, I go down and give the blood," Armstrong said. "It's not as if I'm looking at my window and I see them coming and I stay in my room. I think there are people who think that but ... That's not the way it works now. That's not the way it has ever worked.

"It's also the Tour de France. You can't wake up guys on a day of a mountain stage at 6 a.m.," Armstrong said. "There is also a human aspect there."

According to Armstrong, the doping controllers arrived too early at the Astana hotel last Saturday before the second stage in the Pyrenees.

Following his last Tour victory, Armstrong railed against the "cynics and the skeptics" who didn't believe his triumphs were doping-free. A month after his retirement, L'Equipe reported that Armstrong's "B" samples from the 1999 Tour contained EPO -- a banned blood-boosting hormone. The newspaper is owned by race organizer ASO.

Armstrong insisted he was the victim of a "witch hunt," and a Dutch lawyer appointed by the UCI later cleared him.

"The key thing is -- we all have to remember -- yes we want the controls. Yes we want a clean event," Armstrong said before Friday's 13th stage.

After the incident in Andorra, French anti-doping chief Pierre Bordry accused the UCI of "laxity."

UCI president Pat McQuaid was surprised by Bordry's comments and denied allegations that the UCI "is making any difference with the riders."

Last year, the AFLD ran doping controls alone. The UCI is back to oversee testing this year, but in collaboration with the AFLD, which can target riders and ask the UCI to test them.