Armstrong says he'll remain retired

Credit: Getty Images/Doug Pensinger
In a story turning more and more toward theater of the absurd, only one act Thursday seemed entirely rational.

That was when Lance Armstrong told an evening teleconference he had no intention of ending his retirement to ride another Tour de France just to irritate the French, as Armstrong had suggested he might a couple of weeks ago.

"In my heart and mind, it seemed to be the right answer at the time," Armstrong said. "But there is no way I could go to France and get a fair shake, either on the roadside, in the doping control or in the lab or in the hotel or in the food or whatever. I'm happy with the way my career ended. I'm not coming back."

Armstrong had organized the teleconference to respond to statements made earlier in the day by Montreal attorney Richard Pound, chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

During the 45-minute call, Armstrong, his agent, Bill Stapleton, and his attorney, Mark Levinstein, leveled a variety of unverifiable accusations, mainly at Pound, who could not be reached for further comment.

Armstrong suggested conspiracies involving "people much higher up." Stapleton mentioned sabotage of urine samples. Levinstein implied Pound was the source of leaked information that led the French newspaper, L'Equipe, to allege Armstrong tested positive six times for the banned performance-enhancing drug EPO during the 1999 Tour, his first of seven straight victories.

"L'Equipe was just the mouthpiece here," Armstrong said. "I think this goes to the (French) minister of sport, to the Olympic bid, to WADA and Dick Pound."

Armstrong was insinuating L'Equipe held off publishing the article until after the July 6 vote for the 2012 Olympic host, in which London upset Paris.

The International Cycling Union issued a statement last Friday saying it was determined to find out how and why confidential documents about Armstrong were leaked to L'Equipe's Damien Ressiot.

Four days earlier, UCI president Hein Verbruggen of the Netherlands had written WADA to say the UCI itself had shown the documents to the journalist and provided him a copy of one.

The documents in question, published by L'Equipe Aug. 23, are six doping control forms Armstrong signed during the 1999 Tour. Those forms contain numbers that link Armstrong to a laboratory report that listed positives only by number from samples that were frozen, then thawed and retested.

Pound referred to Verbruggen's letter during a Thursday morning teleconference. Pound declined to release the letter but indicated he might if WADA is not satisfied with the ongoing UCI investigation into the case. He suggested WADA might not cooperate further with the investigation.

"If it is simply a matter of them looking for a scapegoat, that to us is not an investigation," Pound said. "We are waiting to see whether they have a commitment to get at the truth and the whole truth."

Levinstein said Pound's statements about WADA not cooperating with the UCI investigation were a "clear effort by WADA to conceal information they have." Pound told the Chicago Tribune after his conference call WADA had forwarded the lab report to the UCI and WADA did not have copies of Armstrong's doping control forms.

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