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Armstrong abandons independent drug-testing program

Seven-times Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong has abandoned his much trumpeted proposal for an independent drug-testing programme because of logistical problems and high costs.

The American rider, who competed for the first time in three-and-a-half years at last month's Tour Down Under in Australia, had initially intended to hire anti-doping expert Don Catlin to supervise a transparent biological monitoring.

However, Armstrong said yesterday through his lawyer he would instead use Ramsus Damsgaard, who runs the Astana team's internal testing programme.

"After a thorough review..., the decision has been made to transfer the comprehensive programme we had planned to do with Don Catlin to Ramsus Damsgaard," Bill Stapleton, Armstrong's long-time agent and lawyer, said in a statement.

"Lance is the most tested athlete in sports history and he is certainly the most tested cyclist in the world since his return to the sport last year, evidenced by no fewer than 16 unannounced out-of-competition tests since August all over the world.

"We will continue to do everything we can do to ensure transparency and honesty in his testing results.

"We have the utmost respect for Don and all he is doing in the fight against doping in sport but we faced a myriad of problems relating to administration, coordination and cost."


Armstrong, a survivor of testicular cancer who retired after winning the 2005 Tour de France, has set his sights on attempting to add to his record with an eighth Tour this year.

He announced he was making a comeback at age 37 in September, saying he would be joining Team Astana in a bid to promote a global cancer awareness campaign.

He has since reunited with Johan Bruyneel, who was the Texan's team director for all of his Tour de France victories with the US Postal and Discovery teams from 1999-2005.

In September, Armstrong said the Astana team would hire Catlin to supervise a biological monitoring of him that would be made available online throughout his training and racing.

The American has been dogged by doping suspicions over the years, although he has vehemently denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs.

"Beyond today I'm not going to tell you how clean I am," he said while announcing his comeback plans. "I will ride by bike around the world and Don Catlin will tell you how clean I am."

Armstrong will be riding for Team Astana in the 750-mile (1207-km), nine-day Tour of California which starts in Sacramento on Saturday.


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