By Tim Maloney, European Editor in Nantes
As defending Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong was relaxing Friday afternoon in his hotel room in Nantes before the 2005 Tour team presentation in Challans later on Friday evening, he was summoned to a surprise out of competition anti-doping test conducted by the French Ministry of Youth and Sport at 3:30. Although the test was deemed "random", Armstrong appeared to be the only Tour de France rider tested by the French government Friday. The test likely came as surprise to Armstrong, as he and all the other riders at the Tour had their blood tests performed yesterday. Armstrong is considered as perhaps the most tested athlete in any sport and sources later confirmed to Cyclingnews that today's test was the American's sixth out of competition test so far in 2005.
Cyclingnews was at the Discovery Channel team hotel Friday afternoon for tech coverage of Armstrong's time trial bike when suddenly, Armstrong appeared up amidst the team tech area. We thought he might be there to check out his TT bike set up, but in reality, he was performing a surprise out of competition anti-doping test conducted by the French Ministry of Sport and Youth. The French government sent two functionaries, one a medical doctor and they were accompanied by two UCI representatives. A stone faced Armstrong went into the team bus with the four medical control officials and emerged almost an hour later after blood and urine samples were taken on the spot.
Two of Armstrong's blood samples were checked in the team bus, while two others were retained by the French officials, perhaps to be sent for further testing by Dr. Jacques de Ceaurriz, chief of the French national anti-doping lab in Châtenay-Malabry. Once the surprise tests were over, Armstrong showed no emotion and greeted some friends who had come to see him, joking and taking some pictures before returning to his team hotel. No word whether the French Ministry of Sport and Youth plans a series of surprise out of competition anti-doping initiatives during the Tour that target other race favourites, but today Armstrong was the random choice.