The World Anti-Doping Agency has issued a detailed response to the Vrijman report into allegations by the newspaper l'Equipe that Lance Armstrong used EPO in the 1999 Tour de France. In a statement issued yesterday, WADA stood by the research findings of the Châtenay-Malabry laboratory, accused Vrijman of confusing research and sanctioning protocols and called the report "fallacious in many aspects and misleading".
Vrijman's report criticized WADA for refusing to cooperate with his investigation, but WADA claims this was not the case. Providing a detailed time line of the case, WADA claims it was supplied with a list of questions by Vrijman on March 10 and March 15 and, "WADA responded in full to the list of questions."
WADA also pointed out that despite his vigorous public statements defending himself against the accusation that he used EPO in 1999, Armstrong has not taken legal action against l'Equipe. "In France, where the article was published, Mr. Armstrong did not issue proceedings for defamation against L'Equipe," said the WADA statement. "We are not aware of any proceedings elsewhere either. There are time limits provided for the initiation of such proceedings, and in this case they have now expired. In other situations involving newspaper articles and books, in varying jurisdictions around the world, Mr. Armstrong has sued and some of these proceedings are still awaiting hearings in courts. One involving The Sunday Times in England has a hearing shortly."
Turning to the substantive findings of the report, that the process by which Armstrong's 1999 samples were found to allegedly contain EPO was not valid, WADA says that Vrijman confuses the protocols necessary for a sanction and those of research.
"The process used by the French Laboratory in conducting its research was not the process used for analysing samples for the purpose of sanctions," said WADA. "Mr. Vrijman, at all times, confuses this fundamental difference and seems to indicate that, in conducting research, the laboratory was required to carry it out in the same manner as for analysing samples for adverse analytical findings. This is not the case, and Mr. Vrijman, in directing himself to the rules relating to samples collected for analysis rather than understanding the difference for research, has totally misdirected himself in his inquiry."
WADA stands by the Châtenay-Malabry lab and its findings, despite the Vrijman report's recommendation that WADA should suspend the lab's accreditation. "The laboratory has indicated publicly that it has no doubt whatsoever in the results of its analysis," said WADA, "and that no sample used for the research project was contaminated, manipulated or interfered with."
In the final paragraphs of the statement, WADA denies any contact with the l'Equipe journalist who broke the story, and denies any wrong-doing in its involvement with the research that allegedly revealed the presence of EPO in Armstrong's 199 samples.
"There was no pressure put on the laboratory by WADA. There was no leak from WADA. There has been no discussion of matters with the journalist prior to the publication of the article, and there has been no information given to the journalist which would lead to the identification of the individual, Mr. Armstrong," said WADA.
"Mr. Vrijman insists that WADA exercised inappropriate pressure on the French laboratory. WADA solely advised the laboratory it would be interested in the findings, and disclosed this in the response WADA gave to Mr. Vrijman's questions. There was no other action taken by WADA in relation to the publication of the results of the research."
WADA reiterated that it is examining its legal options regarding the report's accusations. "When the facts are wrong the conclusions that are built on these facts are wrong. Mr. Vrijman's report is fallacious in many aspects and misleading. WADA is presently looking at all its available legal recourses in respect of the report."
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