Doping investigation against Lance Armstrong heating up
The World Anti-Doping Agency is working hard to aggressively build a case against American sporting legend Lance Armstrong as he prepares to enter the 2010 Tour de France, which he announced would be his last ever.
An official recently told the New York Times that though the process may take multiple years, the World Anti-Doping Agency would eventually be able to prove Armstrong had used illicit substances.
"I think we are very optimistic that this inquiry will be a fruitful one," the director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency, David Howman said. Howman is one of several anti-doping officials receiving frequent briefings on the case.
"But this is going to take some time because we're not really talking about a simple anti-doping case here. Remember the Balco case, how long that took? Well, we could be still talking about this one in 2016."
Armstrong for his part claimed to have nothing to hide, writing recently on his Twitter account he did not mind being met by two anti-doping officials from the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) and the cycling world's governing body, the World Cycling Union (UCI).
''Pull up to the hotel and drug testers waiting. Two agencies as well! AFLD and the UCI. Nice communication guys,'' Armstrong wrote. ''For the record - I don't mind the controls. Part of the game. Test me any time, anywhere, result will always be the same, nothing to find.''
Armstrong has faced all kinds of scrutiny after 2006 Tour de France winner and fellow American Floyd Landis admitted to have taken performance enhancing drugs in the past and worked to avoid testing.
Landis reportedly sent multiple emails to doping agencies and cycling officials confirming he had used EPO and blood transfusions, and that his teammates Lance Armstrong and George Hincapi had done the same. He further alleged that Armstrong had bribed officials at the UCI to cover up results of an alleged positive urine test.
The allegations were strong enough to kick off an investigation into the alleged activities, with a federal prosecutor being assigned in early June to attempt to uncover the truth about the allegations. Assistant U.S Attorney Doug Miller is now conducting an investigation with the help of the Food and Drug Administration.
Landis' accusations rocked the cycling world, which long held Armstrong in incredibly high esteem after his achievements in the sport and his inspirational personal story.
French attempts to test Armstrong denied
The AFLD attempted to impose their own additional tests on top of the tests which are already being carried out by the UCI. The UCI and the AFLD have been in a dispute over doping policies. The AFLD has criticised the effectiveness of UCI drug-testing policies in the past and accused them of showing favouritism towards Lance Armstrong, who is the sport's most famous rider and in many ways its poster child after having suffered advanced testicular cancer to rally from the brink of death to seven straight Tour de France victories.
The World Anti-Doping Agency denied the AFLD's request however, putting their confidence in the UCI's policies. The AFLD had attempted to justify administering 60 additional tests throughout the 3500km race by saying that they had "access to confidential information from the police and customs that it cannot share with other organisations," implying in the process that the UCI didn't have this information.
Given the AFLD's previous statements towards Armstrong, it seems almost certain he would have been one of the racers targeted by the tests. Meanwhile, this will be the last chance to test Armstrong, as he also announced via Twitter this would be his last-ever Tour de France. Given his focus on and love of this event, it seems likely he is planning a complete retirement from sport cycling.