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Last Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005, 09:00 GMT 10:00 UK
Armstrong reveals reputation fear
Lance Armstrong on the Larry King Live programme
Lance Armstrong fears allegations he used blood-boosting drugs in the 1999 Tour de France will haunt him forever.

French newspaper L'Equipe alleged earlier this week that signs of EPO were detected in samples of the American's urine given during the race.

The seven-time winner, who strongly denies the claims, told CNN's Larry King Live show: "It's not good for me.

"The unfortunate thing is you're potentially dealt something you have to face for the rest of your life."

Armstrong had already issued a statement denying L'Equipe's allegations, which were made on Tuesday.

The 32-year-old, who retired this year after winning the Tour for the seventh time in as many years, insisted he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs and said the article was part of a "witch hunt".

Protocol wasn't followed and there is no back-up sample to confirm what they say is a positive test
Lance Armstrong
Speaking on prime-time American TV on Thursday, Armstrong said the allegations were far from new but threatened to follow him forever.

"It's always going to be a case of did he or didn't he but it's always been a case of did he or didn't he," he added.

"This is not the first time somebody has come along and said 'he's doped', 'he rode too fast', 'his story's too miraculous'. This has been going on for seven years and I suspect it will continue.

"I thought, you know what, I retire, I move on in life and perhaps this stuff will fade away and boom - this comes along. So no, this is not the first or last time."

The tests were carried out last year on 1999 samples at the French national anti-doping laboratory at Chatenay-Malabry, just outside Paris, to help testers improve their EPO detection methods.

Amstrong also criticised the anti-doping system for allowing his six-year-old urine samples to be retested after they were supposed to be stored anonymously.

"Protocol wasn't followed and there is no back-up sample to confirm what they say is a positive test," said Armstrong.

Erythropoietin is a naturally occurring hormone, produced by the kidneys, which stimulates the body to produce more red blood cells
American pharmaceutical company Amgen were the first to manufacture a synthetic version of EPO
It began to be used widely in medicine in the late 1980s as part of the treatment of anaemia, a condition caused by a low number of red blood cells
Sportsmen soon realised that EPO could help their blood could carry more oxygen, so their bodies could work harder for longer
By the late 1990s, EPO had become the key battle in the anti-doping war
"Do you think I am going to trust some guy in a French lab to open my samples and say they are positive and announce that to the world and not give me the chance to defend myself? That's ludicrous. There's no way you can do that."

Armstrong has not ruled out legal action over the allegations.

"We would have to decide who we were going to pursue, whether it was the lab, whether it was L'Equipe, whether it was the sports minister, whether it was Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency). All of these people violated a serious code of ethics.

"Law suits are two things - they are very costly and they are very time consuming - and fortunately cycling has been great to me and I have the money and the resources to do something like that. But at the end of the day when you sue somebody it just keeps a bad story alive forever."

Armstrong said he had been dealing with similar accusations from the French media for seven years, but also believes American-French relations and the state of French cycling may be to blame for the allegations.

"If you consider the landscape between Americans and French right now, obviously relations are strained," he said.

He added: "Couple that with the fact that French cycling is in one of it's biggest lulls ever - I think it's been 25 years since they won the Tour de France - times are tough.

"The day I retired, they wrote a front page editorial on L'Equipe and said at the end of the editorial 'never has an athlete's retirement been so welcome'."

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