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Anti-doping chief vows fairness for Armstrong

WHEN Lance Armstrong and France's anti-doping agency locked horns earlier this year over a surprise doping test, the seven-time Tour de France champion's hopes of returning to the Tour this year appeared to fade.

Since then, tensions have eased. The Texan star is set to start the three-week race on Saturday in Monaco, and Pierre Bordry, the president of anti-doping agency AFLD, says his drugs testers will treat Armstrong like any other rider.

"He is probably a great sportsman and from that point of view he is not a rider like any other," Bordry said. "But he should be treated like the others when it comes to the fight against doping."

Just months ago, Armstrong and the agency were trading threats and invective.

The AFLD said Armstrong did not fully cooperate with one of its testers who showed up at his home in France to collect blood, urine and hair samples in March. At issue was a 20-minute delay. Armstrong insisted the tester had agreed to let the rider shower while his assistants checked the visitor's credentials.

The agency said Armstrong was out of line, and warned it could prevent him from racing in the Tour.

Armstrong at first reacted angrily and predicted the dispute would continue to escalate, anticipating "more antics out of the AFLD." He didn't return to France to train or compete.

Armstrong had been planning to race in the Criterium International in France, but instead rode in the Vuelta of Castilla and Leon - where he broke his collarbone in a crash that could have also derailed his Tour comeback hopes. But in part because of a letter of goodwill that Armstrong sent to Bordry, the ill-feeling eased. The agency chief said he appreciated the letter, and took it into account in his decision to let Armstrong go unpunished.

Bordry insists there was no gentleman's agreement with Armstrong. He however refused to reveal the contents of the letter.


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