By Shane Stokes
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong could soon face disciplinary proceedings from the French anti-doping agency AFLD, following what it says was improper behaviour during an anti-doping test carried out on 17 March 2009.
In a statement issued today, the AFLD said that Armstrong did not obey the rules of the World Anti-doping Agency's International Standard of Testing, specifically Article 5.4.1, which states that the person being subjected to an anti-doping control must remain within the sight of the doping control officer from the time of notification until the sample is collected.
The AFLD release stated that the UCI has already confirmed its right to open disciplinary proceedings against the American. "Via a letter dated April 8 sent to the Agency, President Pat McQuaid has, in his response, stated that the combined interpretation of the world [WADA] code and UCI anti-doping regulation conferred upon the AFLD the jurisdiction to open possible disciplinary proceedings against Mr. Lance Armstrong."
The WADA code article in question states, "when initial contact is made, the ADO [anti-doping official], DCO [doping control organisation] or Chaperone, as applicable, shall ensure that the Athlete and/or a third party (if required in accordance with Clause 5.3.8) is informed.... of the Athlete's responsibilities, including the requirement to... remain within direct observation of the DCO/Chaperone at all times from the point of notification by the DCO/Chaperone until the completion of the Sample collection procedure."
Earlier this week, Armstrong responded to news that the AFLD had raised objections to the incident. He issued a statement saying that while he and team manager Johan Bruyneel were attempting to verify the validity of the person requesting the samples, Armstrong was permitted to leave.
"We told the tester we wanted to check with the UCI to confirm who he was and to make sure he wasn't just some French guy with a backpack and some equipment to take my blood and urine.
"Johan stayed with him and in his presence called the UCI to find out what was going on. We asked if it was OK for me to run inside and shower while they made their calls and the tester said that was fine."
The AFLD statement directly contradicts this, saying that, "Mr Armstrong, despite being repeatedly warned by the examiner, did not meet the obligation to remain under direct and permanent observation."
As the national anti-doping agency, the AFLD has the authority to test all athletes on French soil, regardless of where their licence is registered. This is the same international rule that permitted CONI to carry out anti-doping tests during last year's Tour de France when the race visited Italy, and also enables USADA to carry out tests on riders at races such as the Tour of California.
Today's news is significant as the AFLD could potentially ban Armstrong from competing on French soil. If this is upheld against all appeals, this would rule out his bid for an eighth Tour de France crown this summer.
Armstrong would however be able to ride the Giro d'Italia. The race organisers yesterday announced a modification to the route of stage 16, which now no longer crosses the border to France.
Cyclingnews will have more on this story soon.