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Armstrong defends his Tour record

Lance Armstrong
Armstrong has announced he will return to the sport in 2009

Lance Armstrong has hit back at Tour de France organisers who claimed the seven-time Tour champion's return to cycling was "embarrassing".

The American, who has always denied allegations of drug use, said: "I won the Tour seven straight years and was never found to be guilty of doping.

"Not to mention that my team of 25 riders over those seven years was also never found to be positive.

"We won clean and fair. Where's the embarrassment in that?"

The 37-year-old added in a statement: "Also, according to industry standards, the TV ratings, worldwide media impressions, spectators along the route, and global sponsorships (of the Tour) were at an all time high.

"It comes as an issue of distraction. While I love the event and France's people, I cannot accept this sort of grandstanding."

Armstrong, who has announced he will return to the sport in 2009 after an absence of more than three years, was responding to a comment from Jean-Etienne Amaury, president of the Tour's parent company Amaury Sports Organisation.

Amaury had told French newspaper L'Equipe on Saturday: "We cannot say that he does not embarrass the Tour de France, with whom he has a complicated history."

In 2005, L'Equipe reported that six B samples belonging to the Texan contained the banned substance EPO - a blood-boosting hormone that enhances endurance.

Drug-testing protocol dictates that blood or urine is divided into A and B samples and both must show traces of the banned substance for a test to be declared positive.

An independent investigation conducted by Dutch lawyer Emile Vrijman, cleared Armstrong of doping and accused the French lab at Chatenay-Malabry of misconduct.

But Vrijman's report failed to satisfy everybody - World Anti-Doping president Dick Pound being a notable detractor - and last week the head of the French anti-doping agency Pierre Bordry rejected Armstrong's claim that tests on the samples could not be trusted.

Armstrong, who recovered from life-threatening cancer to dominate the Tour between 1999 and 2005, has said the primary reason for his surprise return is a desire to raise awareness and funds for his cancer charity.

He has confirmed he will ride for the Astana team run by his former race manager Johan Bruyneel, and hopes to start his comeback in Australia's Tour Down Under in January.

However, there are doubts about his eligibility for that race as he will not have been back on the anti-doping register the required six months.

see also
Armstrong 'must play team role'
02 Oct 08 |  Cycling
Lance takes a chance
11 Sep 08 |  Cycling
Armstrong to make shock comeback
10 Sep 08 |  Cycling
Armstrong rejects latest claims
13 Sep 06 |  Cycling

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