Lance Armstrong pulls out of Tour of Flanders appearance

Lance Armstrong has pulled out of a scheduled appearance at this weekend's Tour of Flanders, citing family reasons. Armstrong was due to appear as a guest of honour at the Tour of Flanders Business Academy event on Friday but announced in a post on Facebook, and in a statement issued by organisers Flanders Classics, that he would not be attending.

Armstrong will be replaced by Belgian national football coach Roberto Martinez as the guest of honour.

"I was very much looking forward to being in Belgium for this year's Tour of Flanders, and regret that a private family matter has prevented me from being there with you all to enjoy what will no doubt be an exciting day of racing," Armstrong wrote on Facebook.

"As I'm sure many of you can relate, my family comes first, and I unexpectedly need to be close to home at this time. I'll be following all the action from Texas, and there in spirit as a long-time fan of this historic, always action-packed race.

"I'd like to convey my thanks to Wouter Vandenhaute for inviting me to be here to celebrate another year of this true cycling Monument and Roberto Martinez for stepping in when I'm regrettably not able to be there with you. I look forward to returning to Flanders in the future and celebrating this special tradition, one of the greatest in all of sport, beside all of you."

Some 2,000 people were reportedly due to attend the event the Tour of Flanders Business Academy, having paid as much as €295 for a ticket. Although, Flanders Classic said in their statement that ticket holders would be able to get a refund if requested.

Armstrong's appearance at the event, which was confirmed in December, caused controversy because of his life ban for doping. UCI president David Lappartient said that he would not attend the Tour of Flanders if Armstrong was there and later wrote a letter to race organiser Wouter Vandenhaute. However, Flanders Classics refused to rescind their invitation.

Armstrong is also dealing with the on-going whistleblower case, which is due to come to a head in the coming months. Last week, Cyclingnews confirmed that more than 50 witnesses had been called to give testimony.

The trial is due to start in Washington DC on May 7, although an initial pre-trial conference is scheduled for April 24 with a meeting to prepare a Joint Pre-Trial Statement set for April 9. If Armstrong loses the case or does not settle before the trial, he could be liable for up to $100 million in damages.

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