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Armstrong's Down Under hopes not over

Lance Armstrong was quick to respond

Lance Armstrong was quick to respond (Image credit: Jon Devich)

Lance Armstrong's return to the professional peloton in Australia's Tour Down Under has come under question due to an International Cycling Union (UCI) anti-doping rule. Reports that his enrolment in the required out-of-competition testing pool fell just shy of meeting the UCI's rules to compete in the January event were confirmed by Armstrong in a telephone call with several journalists, including Cyclingnews' Laura Weislo, on Monday.

Speaking from the small town of Marfa, Texas, Armstrong confirmed that his official enrolment in the system came August 1, 2008, but that he held a conversation with UCI president Pat McQuaid declaring his intentions "sometime in July". The UCI's anti-doping rules state that any rider coming out of retirement may not resume international competition unless he 'notifies the UCI six months in advance... and is available for unannounced out-of-competition testing at any time during the period before actual return to competition'.

Armstrong's August 1 enrolment would fall two weeks short of six months prior to the January 18 start of the Tour Down Under, preventing him from competing if the UCI were to take a strict interpretation of the rules. Armstrong said he is confused about the UCI's inconsistent application of this rule. "When it comes to sport, you always have rules, and we're not asking for any exceptions. But they don't always apply this rule. We all remember Mario Cipollini coming back at the Tour of California this year. This rule did not apply to him."

He also said he received conflicting information from McQuaid, who informed him the rule would only apply for world championships and Olympic Games.

Armstrong said that he has made himself available to the United States Anti-doping Agency (USADA), and has already been visited by the anti-doping testers sometime at the end of August. He's optimistic that he may still actually be able to race at the Tour Down Under, but admitted he hadn't had time to talk to McQuaid or UCI anti-doping chief Anne Gripper about the situation.

"I'm very excited to come [to Australia] - more importantly than with regards to the comeback and racing, we have a lot of stuff we can do in Australia; with the people, the government and the youth, when it comes to cancer awareness and prevention."

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