"For the sake of objectivity and justice, and to enable the cyclist Lance Armstrong dispel any unfounded rumors", the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) proposed Wednesday to offer for analysis six of Armstrong's residual urine samples (B samples) taken during the 1999 Tour de France.
The Agency suggested testing the samples for recombinant EPO. Despite the elapsed nine years, at least five of the samples are considered by the AFLD to be in suitable condition and of sufficient volume to permit such testing. The samples were preserved at the French National Anti-Doping Lab (LNDD) following a January 4, 2006, court tribunal defamation decision involving Armstrong.
In the past decade, several sources have levelled accusations of doping at Armstrong, but perhaps the most famous is the French newspaper L'Equipe, which alleged in 2005 that Armstrong used the banned substance EPO to achieve his first victory in the race in 1999. First used at the Olympics in Sydney, the test for EPO was not validated for use by the UCI until Spring 2001.
In a statement on its website, the AFLD proposed the tests as an act of good faith, although the agency also recognized that even if the results came back positive, "they could not in any case give rise to any disciplinary doping procedure" given the statute of limitations of eight years set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
"The analysis could be completed within a short time after agreement," said AFLD's statement which suggested testing "at the Châtenay-Malabry lab in the presence of an expert appointed by the athlete or at another laboratory accredited by WADA but using the same method of isoelectric focusing, which has been internationally validated by the AMA to detect the presence of EPO recombinant in the urine."
Armstrong won seven editions of the Tour de France between 1999 and 2005. He has consistently denied taking performance enhancing drugs. He recently announced his comeback to professional road racing and will make an attempt at an eighth Tour de France win in July of 2009.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of Lance Armstrong's comeback
January 18, 2009 - Armstrong announces start of Catlin's drug testing programme
January 8, 2009 - Armstrong impresses Carmichael prior to Tour Down Under
January 7, 2009 - Armstrong believes Team Astana can dominate Tour
December 10, 2008 - Merckx: Armstrong's return good for cycling and Giro
December 8, 2008 - Armstrong climbs Teide
December 6, 2008 - Rast on life with Armstrong
December 5, 2008 - Armstrong considers Tour of Ireland
December 5, 2008 - Armstrong: Contador is the best
December 4, 2008 - Horner unites with Armstrong despite past differences
December 3, 2008 - Armstrong and Contador ride separate paths towards Tour
December 2, 2008 - Armstrong surfs with Astana
December 2, 2008 - Armstrong plans to race Tour
December 1, 2008 - Armstrong's anti-doping testing program pending
November 23, 2008 - Media out of love with Armstrong?
November 22, 2008 - Andreu caught up in Armstrong fight again
November 19, 2008 - Armstrong concerned about Tour safety
November 17, 2008 - Armstrong to meet with ASO
November 9, 2008 - Armstrong racing in Texas again
November 7, 2008 - Exclusive Armstrong wind tunnel video
November 7, 2008 - Lance Armstrong speaks at Web 2.0 conference
November 6, 2008 - Carmichael dials in Armstrong's comeback training
November 5, 2008 - Armstrong looking for balance
November 5, 2008 - Photos from Armstrong's wind tunnel test
November 3, 2008 - Armstrong doubles up and heads to wind tunnel