The UCI approved Lance Armstrong's participation in the Tour Down Under, the first 2009 ProTour event, set for January 20-25 in Australia. The timing of Armstrong's return to the professional peloton had been called into question due to a UCI anti-doping rule.
At issue was whether Armstrong would be eligible to compete in time for the Tour Down Under because according to the UCI, "Article 77 of the Anti-Doping Regulations introduced in 2004, a retired rider may only return to competition by informing the UCI six months in advance in order to allow him/her to be available for out-of-competition testing."
Although he said he'd previously discussed his return with UCI President Pat McQuaid in late July, Armstrong officially enrolled in the UCI's required anti-doping program on August 1, 2008. Therefore according to the UCI, if it strictly interpreted Article 77, Armstrong "would only be able to return to the sport at international level from February 1, 2009, a week after the end of the Australian event."
However, the UCI said that progress made in its anti-doping programme since 2004, including the increases in the number of tests, especially out-of-competition, and the introduction of the biological passport, means that riders are now subject to a much-reinforced system of monitoring compared to that of the past.
"Consequently, the aim of Article 77 at the time of its introduction in 2004 (to ensure that a rider returning to competition is subject to the same degree of testing as active riders) can be better achieved through careful application of the current methods of the anti-doping programme than by the strict application of a time period," said a statement by the UCI. "The UCI can confirm that Lance Armstrong has and will be the subject of very strict monitoring throughout the period running up to his return to the peloton."
"This decision has been made after a careful assessment of the situation, taking into account both the applicable regulations and the imperatives of the fight against doping which is the UCI's number one priority," concluded the statement.
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
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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
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November 7, 2008 - Exclusive Armstrong wind tunnel video
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November 3, 2008 - Armstrong doubles up and heads to wind tunnel