By Jeff Jones
There has been a slew of press releases issued on Wednesday afternoon in the wake of the leaking of Dutch lawyer Emile Vrijman's 132-page report on the 1999 Tour de France urine sample case. Ironically, Mr. Vrijman's report found its way into the Dutch press before the UCI or WADA saw it - much to the annoyance of both sporting bodies.
The report recommended that Armstrong should be cleared of any suspicion surrounding the retrospective testing of his blood samples from the 1999 Tour de France, where were claimed by L'Equipe to have contained EPO. It denounced the manner in which the doping laboratory in Châtenay-Malabry carried out its research, as well as questioning the ethics of World Anti-Doping Agency chairman, Dick Pound.
The UCI's response was tinged with more than a little frustration, as it had appointed Mr. Vrijman to do the investigation in the first place. "The International Cycling Union has learned with great surprise the declarations conveyed to the Dutch press by Mr. Emile Vrijman, independent investigator within the context of the urine sample analysis during the 1999 Tour de France case," the statement read.
"The UCI firmly deplores the behaviour of Mr. Vrijman, who has prematurely voiced, offending the agreements that foresaw that all parties implied would be informed before any public comment on the report content would be done. Still waiting the receive the definite version of the said report written by Mr. Vrijman, the UCI underlines its deep displeasure with regards to the regrettable development of this case."
The UCI finished by stating that it will study the contents of the report in detail before publishing it in full.
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) statement was similarly disapproving, most of all at the fact that the report criticised WADA's ethics in the case. "The World Anti-Doping Agency expresses grave concern and strong disappointment following media reports in which Dutch lawyer Emile Vrijman, who was appointed by the International Cycling Union (UCI) to investigate urine samples collected from the 1999 Tour de France, criticises anti-doping authorities," read WADA's statement.
"WADA is not in a position to comment at this time other than to state that elementary courtesy and professionalism would have dictated that WADA should have been provided with a copy of the report before interviews were given to the media.
"WADA continues to stress its concern that an investigation into the matter must consider all aspects - not limited to how the damaging information regarding athletes' urine samples became public, but also addressing the question of whether anti-doping rules were violated by athletes. WADA will respond in due course once it has fully reviewed the report."
In addition, WADA president Dick Pound was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "It's clearly everything we feared. There was no interest in determining whether the samples Armstrong provided were positive or not. We were afraid of that from the very beginning."
The only party who was happy with the report was Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner who was implicated by the L'Equipe article. In his statement, Armstrong thanked Mr Vrijman and his staff for their "hard work and diligence in this process. I have not had an opportunity to study the report yet, but I wanted to let you know my preliminary reactions to the report," said Armstrong.
"Although I am not surprised by the report’s findings, I am pleased that they confirm what I have been saying since this witch-hunt began: Dick Pound, WADA, the French laboratory, the French Ministry of Sport, L’Equipe, and the Tour de France organizers (ASO) have been out to discredit and target me without any basis and falsely accused me of taking performance enhancing drugs in 1999. Today’s comprehensive report makes it clear that there is no truth to that accusation.
"The report confirms my innocence, but also finds that Mr. Pound along with the French lab and the French ministry have ignored the rules and broken the law. They have also refused to cooperate with the investigation in an effort to conceal the full scope of their wrongdoing. I have now retired, but for the sake of all athletes still competing who deserve a level playing field and a fair system of drug testing, the time has come to take action against these kinds of attacks before they destroy the credibility of WADA and, in turn, the international anti-doping system."
June 27, 2006 - Carmichael defends Armstrong, Armstrong answers L'Equipe & LeMond
June 26, 2006 - LeMond: "Armstrong threatened my life"
June 19, 2006 - Armstrong calls for Pound's exit
June 18, 2006 - Lance Armstrong's open letter against Dick Pound
June 4, 2006 - UCI hits back at WADA
June 3, 2006 - WADA slams the Vrijman report
June 2, 2006 - L'Equipe stands by its story, UCI supports Vrijman's findings
June 1, 2006 - UCI, WADA and Armstrong react to Vrijman's report
May 31, 2006 - UCI lawyer asks for Armstrong's name to be cleared
May 14, 2006 - Two more weeks for Armstrong investigation