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Saturday, July 17, 1999 Published at 14:51 GMT 15:51 UK

Armstrong 'drug-free' - doctor

Armstrong with Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc

The cancer specialist who treated Tour leader Lance Armstrong has denied suggestions that the American was taking banned drugs to boost his recovery from the condition.

Le Tour de France
Dr Lawrence Einhorn told the French daily Le Monde that the US Postal Service rider was merely being monitored on a six-monthly basis in case of a relapse.

He denied rumours that Armstrong was being treated with interleukin, a medicine to help the recovery of cancer sufferers.

"Interleukin is a highly toxic product and I can guarantee you 100% that Lance Amstrong is not taking such medicaments," said the doctor.

"Since his cure he has followed no medical treatment."

Mr Clean

Allegations have been made in the French press that Armstrong's lead of over seven minutes in the race is down to artificial stiumulation.

Last year's event was wrecked by a drugs scandal and this year's edition had been seen as a new start for the sport.

[ image: Bassons: Self-styled Mr Clean quit the Tour on Friday]
Bassons: Self-styled Mr Clean quit the Tour on Friday
One French rider, Christophe Bassons, believes the leading riders are still taking performance-enhancing drugs.

The rider - who styles himself as cycling's "Mr Clean" - pulled out of the Tour on Friday.

On Saturday he said he had no regrets about leaving after the La Francaise des Jeux team asked him to stop talking to the media.

"I just felt I had an obligation to leave the Tour," explained Bassons.

"One problem in cycling is the doping. The other is the code of silence."

But Dr Einhorn, from the medical faculty of the University of Indiana in the US, said Armstrong has to undergo six-monthly radiology sessions and blood tests.

"Even if he has 98 percent emerged from the affair, sadly there remain risks of a relapse," explained the doctor.

"Like myself, he is a fervent supporter of the struggle against drugs. I can tell you he is only taking vitamins."

Training while suffering

The doctor revealed how committed Armstrong had been even in the dark days of 1997 as he recovered from the illness.

"Armstrong underwent four chemotherapy sessions of five days each and at the time is chances of survival were barely 50 percent," remembered Dr Einhorn.

"But he never stopped training. Sometimes he would cycle between 50 and 80 kilometres per day."

Sport is cleaner - Verbruggen

The head of cycling's governing body is also convinced that the allegations are unjustified, but is not surprised by the innuendoes made against the Texan.

[ image: Hein Verbruggen: Believes Armstrong is innocent]
Hein Verbruggen: Believes Armstrong is innocent
"Regretfully, I expected this kind of thing," said Hein Verbruggen, president of the International Cycling Union (UCI).

"Cycling has created this situation for itself. Last year we found doping existed on a larger scale than we thought. Now there is a kind of reaction.

"But I do not think the suspicions surrounding Armstrong are justified. They are not correct. Yet I can understand that such suspicions exist."

Before the 13th stage of the race on Saturday, Verbruggen said moves to clean up the sport were having an effect.

"The controls have visibly improved over last year and the year before," he said.

"People are more aware of their responsibilities, that is clear.

"Several sporting directors have also called me to say the race is cleaner than in the past."

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