Report: Lance Armstrong to return for ’09 Tour de France

Representatives of the Astana professional cycling team denied an online report Monday that claimed celebrated cyclist Lance Armstrong will end his retirement at age 37 and attempt to return to the Tour de France.Citing anonymous sources, the American cycling magazine VeloNews claimed that Armstrong will seek neither a salary nor bonuses as he competes in five elite road races with the Astana team, which is funded by the state-owned companies from the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan.Armstrong could not be reached for comment, and on Monday night, a spokesman for the Astana team denied the report’s accuracy. “Lance Armstrong is no part of our team,” said Philippe Maertens. “Team Astana has no plans with him.”It would be a shotgun marriage at best, as the organizers of the Tour de France barred the Astana team from competition in 2008 citing doping suspicions. But the move would reunite Armstrong with Astana's team director Johan Bruyneel, who worked with Armstrong following his return from cancer and through the Texan's seven consecutive Tour de France victories.Bruyneel refused to confirm the VeloNews story Monday, saying, “I don't know where the rumors come from” when questioned by another prominent cycling publication, Cyclingnews.comBut's article claimed Armstrong's comeback plans will be detailed in a forthcoming issue of the magazine Vanity Fair, and that part of Armstrong's comeback will be making results of his periodic blood tests publicly available.Such transparency is a recent trend in cycling, as the sport tries to regain credibility following a seemingly endless string of doping scandals – many of them involving Armstrong's former sidekicks like Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis and Roberto Heras.Armstrong, now 36, retired from cycling in 2005. Since then he has been active raising money for cancer research and leading an active dating life that has included romances with actress Kate Hudson Continue Reading

It’s official: Lance Armstrong says he’ll race back for 2009 Tour de France

Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong officially announced his plans to return to professional cycling Tuesday, ending more than three years of restless retirement and 24 hours of worldwide rumor and feverish speculation."I just wanted to let you know that after long talks with my kids, the rest of my family, a close group of friends, I have decided to return to professional cycling in 2009," Armstrong said in a short video posted on his Web site. Meanwhile, the magazine Vanity Fair posted a lengthy profile of Armstrong in which the 36-year-old Texan tells writer Douglas Brinkley, "I'm going to try and win an eighth Tour de France." Armstrong tells the magazine that despite his age he feels as fit as he ever did on a bike, and that he is "100%" certain he will ride in France next July. Armstrong mentions swimmer Dara Torres, who competed in Beijing at age 41, as proof that age is a "wives' tale." In his online video statement, Armstrong said he will be taking aim at an eighth Tour de France victory on behalf of cancer survivors like himself. "The reason for this is to launch an international cancer strategy based on the fact that we lose eight million people around the world to this disease, more than AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis combined," Armstrong said in the video. In addition to his cancer-research advocacy, Armstrong has spent his retirement running marathons in New York City twice and Boston once. Last month, he finished second in the Leadville 100, a seven-hour mountain-bike race in the thin air of Colorado's highest peaks. The news of Armstrong's comeback was first reported Monday on the Web site of American cycling magazine VeloNews. That report suggested Armstrong will ride for the Astana professional cycling team, which representatives of the team continue to deny. Whatever uniform Armstrong wears, his return to the Alps may be complicated by the ocean of bad blood between him and Amaury Sport Organization, which owns the Tour de France and Continue Reading

Lance Armstrong will have surgery on broken collarbone Wednesday

AUSTIN, Texas - Lance Armstrong is planning to ride in the Giro d'Italia in May even though his broken collarbone is a bit more serious than first thought. “I think the Giro is still very doable,” the seven-time Tour de France champion said Tuesday night during a conference call with reporters. “This is definitely a setback, no doubt. It's the biggest setback I've ever had in my cycling career, so it's a new experience for me.” Although initial indications were it was a clean break, the 37-year-old American cyclist said new tests in Austin showed “multiple pieces” of broken bone. He will have surgery Wednesday, and Austin sports medicine specialist Dr. Douglas Elenz, an orthopedic surgeon, will insert a plate to stabilize the collarbone. “I think they try to put the puzzle back together,” Armstrong said. Armstrong crashed Monday in the first stage of the Vuelta of Castilla and Leon race in northern Spain. He flew home to Austin on Tuesday and went straight to visit Elenz. After surgery, Armstrong will take a mandatory 72-hour rest period. Then the surgeon will determine if Armstrong can get on an indoor training bike to resume his workouts. Although the recovery typically takes four to six weeks, Armstrong hopes his will be faster. “It's a very common cycling injury,” he said. “You hear of guys who race two weeks later, you hear of guys who race two months later.” The Giro runs from May 9-31. The Tour de France is July 4-26. Armstrong said he was frustrated the injury happened just as he was getting into top shape. He was among the top 10 riders for much of the race Monday before he crashed about 12 miles from the end of the stage. Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel said Armstrong hit the ground hard with his head, breaking his helmet. “I felt like my condition was really coming to a point where I was going to be able to ride in the front of the races,” he Continue Reading

Scientist: My research on Lance Armstrong was flawed

Just as Lance Armstrong returns to cycling, one of his most prominent home-town backers has responded to critiques on his much-referenced scientific findings about Armstrong's natural physical abilities. University of Texas kinesiology researcher Edward Coyle, who has defended Armstrong from persistent doping accusations by arguing that the cyclist's cancer and therapy produced an exceptional physiological advantage, has been taken to task by his scientific peers. Now Coyle has made a qualified and technical admission that some of the data he used in a 2005 study of Armstrong's physical makeup was not appropriately referenced. PHOTO GALLERY: SPORTS COMEBACKS ... GOOD, BAD & UGLYThe admission comes in a letter to the editor in the September 2008 issue of The Journal of Applied Physiology, where Coyle also claims that a recent critique of his data is an "absolute overstatement" and "potentially biased." But Coyle himself is vulnerable to questions of bias since he testified on Armstrong's behalf as an expert witness in an arbitration case that resulted in Armstrong's winning $7.5 million from SCA Promotions, a company that withheld bonuses from the cyclist citing doping suspicions. Armstrong's lawyers also cited Coyle's work in a withering attack on the British journalist David Walsh, who published several books accusing Armstrong of doping. In a statement disavowing Walsh as a "parasite" Armstrong's lawyers claimed that Coyle's personal testing and observation of Armstrong had resulted in scientific evidence that "Lance Amrstong didn't have to cheat to win." Coyle did not respond immediately Tuesday to requests for comments about his letter to the journal. The exchange between him and his peers is available online for $16. When Armstrong returns, he may no longer cite Coyle's 2005 study, "Improved Muscluar Efficiency Displayed as Tour de France Champion Matures," in which Coyle concluded cancer helped Armstrong lose Continue Reading

Lance Armstrong says he’ll lead anti-doping; drug czar says no guarantees

Lance Armstrong will carry two banners in his comeback next year, and one of them will present a more awkward load than the other. Speaking Wednesday at the Clinton Global Initiative in midtown Manhattan, Armstrong said he will ride to raise global awareness of cancer, but will also embrace cycling's new ethos of transparency in the name of anti-doping. It will be a major change for an athlete who sued journalists for publishing circumstantial evidence that he cheated on his way to seven Tour de France victories. SPORTS COMEBACKS: GOOD, BAD & UGLYArmstrong confirmed that he will ride in the Tour de France for the Kazakh team Astana and claimed he will be "totally validated" by an aggressive screening program to be designed by world-renowned anti-doping scientist Don Catlin. But Catlin, whose chemical sleuthing helped crack the BALCO doping ring in 2003, said "there are no guarantees," and conceded that the program he is establishing to monitor Armstrong will do nothing to clear the suspicions that linger over the cyclist's past accomplishments. "I think it's going to be as airtight as I can possibly make it," Catlin told the Daily News. "Anybody who tries to beat it will be a fool." Catlin said results of Armstrong's blood and urine tests would be posted online, and the urine would be frozen and stored for future re-testing. He said Armstrong's representatives approached him about the plan in the last two weeks, following Armstrong's announcement that he will return after three years of retirement. Armstrong will pay Catlin for the work, but dismissed the concerns of "conspiracy theorists" who see a conflict of interest in that. "There's not enough money anywhere to potentially buy out Don Catlin," said Armstrong. "For the conspiracy theorists out there that might think that, I would refer them to Don Catlin."Catlin discovered the formula of BALCO's designer steroid THG and designed a test for it, leading to the unraveling of Continue Reading

Latest doping tempest renews animosity between Lance Armstrong and France

Although Lance Armstrong's comeback was always supposed to be about altering perceptions, the point was to raise awareness of cancer, not raise animosity towards the French. Following yet another clash with the French anti-doping agency, Armstrong has returned this past week to an interpretation of events that has served him well in the past: France doesn't like him. Armstrong faces possible disciplinary sanctions after apparently escaping sight of a doping control officer for as much as 20 minutes last month. In a videotaped statement posted to his Web site Friday, the 37-year-old cyclist said, "There's a very high likelihood that they prohibit me from riding in the Tour." The doping control officer was waiting at Armstrong's rented house in southern France when the cyclist returned from a training ride, and was unaccompanied, which apparently made Armstrong nervous. In his Web site video, Armstrong described his side of the snafu in fine detail, putting the routine test in a broader context of the Franco-American tensions. "It seemed suspicious," Armstrong said. "Of course we're in France, so you never know what kind of situation I might get into there." That echoed the gratuitous mentions of nationality he peppered into a written statement on his team's Web site earlier in the week. There, Armstrong said he "wasn't sure who this French man at my home was" and wanted to make sure he wasn't "just some French guy with a backpack and some equipment to take my blood and urine." Armstrong's return to the Tour de France has been bumpy. He had surgery in late March for a broken collarbone, and in February abandoned a partnership with world-renowned anti-doping scientist Don Catlin - a monitoring program that Armstrong had promised would leave him "totally validated." Back in November, there was still some question as to whether the Tour de France would allow Armstrong to return to the race he won a record seven times. Race organizers had spoken Continue Reading

Will Lance Armstrong recycle blacklist, be open to media?

Three weeks ago, when Lance Armstrong announced that he would be "completely transparent and open with the press" during the Tour de France comeback he is attempting next year, a wave of skeptical laughter rippled through the cycling world. What does Lance Armstrong know about transparency? His team, after all, reportedly snapped photos of journalists to build a digital "blacklist" as part of an ongoing war with anyone sniffing out evidence of doping on the team. And there was certainly nothing transparent about the tinted windows of Armstrong's team bus, where journalists would gather in the morning before each stage of the Tour de France, hoping for a comment from the iconic Texan. Armstrong would sit behind those one-way windows with his spokesman Jogi Muller and team director Johan Bruyneel, studying the journalists below them. The three would sort the rah-rah brigade from the "trolls" who sought the truth about, say, Armstrong's relationship with tarnished Italian doping doctor Michele Ferrari. "They cannot see us, but we can always see them," Bruyneel told Dan Coyle, the author of the 2005 book Lance Armstrong's War. "You can tell a lot by who is talking to who, and how they are speaking." COMEBACKS: GOOD, BAD & UGLYBruyneel also told Coyle that the team had informants in the press rooms to tattle on which writers were hostile. While that was certainly within Armstrong's rights, picking up the transparency banner afterwards might not be. Armstrong will reunite with Bruyneel on the Kazakh-backed Astana team, which will pay world-renowned anti-doping scientist Don Catlin to test Armstrong's blood and urine, freeze samples for future tests, and post results online. Armstrong called the program - not yet designed or budgeted - a "landmark," but in fact it mirrors similar ones adopted by cycling in recent years. The sport has worked hard to rehabilitate itself since 2005, when Armstrong left the cycling in a smoggy haze of controversy. Continue Reading

Lance Armstrong’s plan for a charity ride along Tour de France course called ‘disrespectful’ by cycling boss

Lance Armstrong is up to his old ways. Banished from sports and besieged by litigation, Armstrong wants to ride part of the Tour de France route for charity this July, one day before the historic cycling event passes through. Anti-doping reformers oppose the idea but may not be able to halt it. Armstrong, who used his cancer-icon status as a shield throughout his epic doping scheme, wants to begin rehabilitating his image before he settles his legal affairs. Armstrong apparently saw the opportunity when he was approached by Geoff Thomas, a former English soccer player organizing a $1.5-million ride to fight leukemia. Armstrong could once have simply written a check, but today he is a defendant in a federal False Claims Act case that could potentially involve nearly $100 million in damages. Armstrong took millions of taxpayer dollars from the U.S. Postal Service under the false pretenses that he was not a doper. The Justice Department, having inexplicably let him off the hook of criminal charges, is determined to get some of the money back. Brian Cookson, the reform-minded head of cycling’s international governing body, told The Associated Press that Armstrong’s stunt was “disrespectful” and risked undermining the race ravaged by doping scandals. For more than seven years, from 1999 to 2005, Armstrong ruled the Tour de France while at the head of a sophisticated doping conspiracy involving doctors, blood smugglers, defamation suits and Armstrong’s crafty cultivation of the media — aided by best-selling books and his friendship with political leaders and pop stars. His chief means of propaganda, when cornered with questions about doping allegations, was to change the subject to his leadership of a cancer-awareness foundation that has since thrown him overboard. For example in 2009, after Irish journalist Paul Kimmage noted Armstrong’s comeback plans, he wrote Continue Reading

Lance Armstrong meets with USADA head Travis Tygart for first time since lifetime ban

Forget about that whole "witch hunt" thing: Lance Armstrong wants to play nice now with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Armstrong reportedly met last week with USADA boss Travis Tygart, whose organization in 2012 issued Armstrong a lifetime ban from sports. The secret meeting is a surprise, given Armstrong's attempts to dismantle USADA as it moved to expose his doping. Like Alex Rodriguez, who is returning to Major League Baseball after a scorched-earth legal battle to escape a season-long suspension, Armstrong wants to return to competition — including high-level triathlon events and marathons. RELATED: LANCE ARMSTRONG'S TOUR DE FRANCE CHARITY RIDE DRAWS IRE But unlike A-Rod, Armstrong remains a defendant in a federal lawsuit. The Justice Department is fiercely committed to a False Claims Act claim against Armstrong in which the government seeks the return of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars that Armstrong took as part of a sponsorship agreement with the U.S. Postal Service. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Armstrong and Tygart met for six hours in their first meeting since 2012, when Armstrong was banned from professional cycling. According to The New York Times, the meeting took place near Denver International Airport. A previous meeting, in late 2012, ended rancorously, with Armstrong storming out on Tygart, whose organization is based in Colorado Springs. Tygart and a USADA spokesperson did not immediately return calls requesting comment. Neither did attorneys Elliot Peters, John Keker, Tim Herman and Robert Luskin, all of them part of the legal dream team Armstrong assembled several years ago in his fight to obliterate anyone who accused him of using performance-enhancing drugs and to keep his doping fortune. Three years ago, when USADA issued its lifetime ban, many mysteries remained as to who in his circle knew about his doping techniques. Since then, much of what Continue Reading

It’s impossible to believe anything Alex Rodriguez or Lance Armstrong say, no matter how they spin it

The dream spring for Alex Rodriguez, one that now includes two home runs for the Yankees around signing autographs and shaking hands and kissing babies, continues. Now his former drug mule, “Cousin” Yuri Sucart, pleads guilty of conspiracy to distribute human growth hormone in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida. It means Sucart doesn’t go to trial and Rodriguez doesn’t have to answer questions, under oath and in open court, about Anthony Bosch or Biogenesis or anything. Another home run for A-Rod! When asked about Sucart and his plea deal the other day, all Rodriguez had to say to reporters in Lakeland, Fla. was, “Guys, there are so many good things to talk about. That isn’t one of them.” Bosch is doing time. Sucart, just another fall guy in Biogenesis, could do eight months of time. Rodriguez? He can’t run very well on a baseball field any longer and is a shell of the player he once was, with or without baseball drugs. But he continues to get by with smiles and vague apologies and this weird “Pride of the Yankees” narrative that he has somehow been able to construct for himself, though not without help. The reality, of course, for as long as he is around and until his body breaks down for good, is that the Yankees are stuck with their very own Lance Armstrong. The difference between him and Armstrong, for now, anyway, is that he gets to come back to the sport that made him rich and famous, while Armstrong is now panhandling for redemption with Travis Tygart of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, so he can somehow rebuild his own sorry brand in triathlon competitions. They both lied until they ran out of lies, but now we are supposed to believe everything they say about how pure their hearts are. And anyone who doesn’t believe, anyone who still finds the scope of the lies they told and the vindictiveness they both showed to those who refused to ignore those lies, is accused Continue Reading