Cycling legend Armstrong considers lawsuit over doping allegations

LOS ANGELES, Aug 25 (AFP) - Lance Armstong vehementy denied fresh doping allegations and attacked lapses in anti-doping protocol that allowed a French newspaper to gain access to his stored urine samples from the 1999 Tour de France. 

Armstrong said something is wrong with an anti-doping system that allowed his six-year-old urine samples to be retested after they were supposed to be stored anonymously. 

"This thing stinks," he said. "It's not good for me. The unfortunate thing is that you're dealing with something you could be faced with the rest of your life. Protocol wasn't followed, and there was no back up sample to confirm what they said was a positive test." 

He said he believed many were at fault, from the L'Equipe newspaper that published the damning report to the laboratory involved, the French sports minister and the World Anti-Doping Agency. 

"We all want a clean sport," said Armstrong, speaking on the Larry King Live programme on CNN.  

"An organization called WADA has come along and has really governed the world of anti-doping. They have set about a protocol and code that everybody has to live by. And they have violated the code several times," he said. 

"They don't have an answer. You talk to the head of WADA and he doesn't have an answer.You talk to the head of the French Ministry for Sport, he doesn't have an answer. The lab doesn't have an answer," Armstrong said. 

Asked if he would sue over the article, Armstrong told the host Larry King he was considering it but hasn't made up his mind."It's a possibility," he said of a lawsuit. "We would have to decide who we would pursue, whether it's the lab, whether it's L'Equipe, whether it was WADA. All of these people violated a serious code of ethics." 

But Armstrong said wasn't convinced a lawsuit would solve the problem.  

"Lawsuits are costly and time consuming and in the end if you sue somebody it just keeps the story alive forever. You give them more credibility than they deserve." 

L'Equipe newspaper on Tuesday carried a front page story headlined "Armstrong's Lie" suggesting the Texan had used the illegal blood booster EPO (erythropoeitin) during his first Tour win in 1999. 

L'Equipe said traces of EPO had been found on six different occasions in Armstrong's 1999 urine samples by the national doping testing laboratory of Chatenay-Malabry near Paris. EPO can boost performance by 30 percent. 

The urine samples, taken in 1998 and 1999, were tested in 2004 by the laboratory, which itself fine-tuned the testing system, according to the report. 

While some have said the test results offer documentary proof that Armstrong cheated, he said it couldn't be considered a true positive since there was no guarantee that proper standards of chain of custody and sample-handling were maintained, and there was no "B" sample to confirm the result. 

"A guy in a Parisian laboroatory opens up your sample. He tests it. Nobody was there to observe, no protocol was followed. And then you get a phone call from the newspaper that says we found you've been positive six times for EPO," Armstrong said.  

"Since when did newspapers start governing sports? When does a newspaper decide they're going to govern and sanction athletes? That's not the way it works. 

Armstrong said he submitted 17 test samples in 1999 and wants to know what happened to the other 11. 

"Why weren't they positive?" Armstrong said.Armstrong, who is a cancer survivor, believes the accusations have also been fuelled by French resentment of his uprecedented cycling success. 

"The story has been too good to be true for them from the very beginning. Consider my situation, here is a guy who comes back from a death sentence. Why would I dope?," asked Armstrong, a cancer survivor celebrated for his efforts to help others coping with the disease. 

"Once I had a French teammate and he said to me, 'Look Lance, the French don't like winners,'" he said. 

"We could look at a lot of things," he added. "If you consider the landscape between Americans and French right now, obviously relations are strained. Let's not forget this all began in 1999 when I won my first Tour... a lot of insinuations, a lot of slimey journalism." 

Armstrong noted that "Cycling in France is in one of its biggest lulls ever," saying that could add to resentment of his success."I remember they took a poll of the most hated sportsman in France. I am glad I didn't win that one ... I think I came third." 

Armstong announced before winning his record seventh Tour that he would retire when it was over, said he is happy his career is finished and there is no reason to return to France. 

"I don't have to go back to France ... go back there racing again and dealing with those people." 

And Armstrong said he wasn't losing any sleep over the latest allegations. 

"I judge a lot of things by how I sleep," Armstrong said. "I don't have a problem sleeping. I get eight or nine hours a night. I don't have a problem looking at myself in the mirror." 

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