Armstrong’s team abandons independent drug tests

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ADELAIDE, Australia (AP) — Lance Armstrong says his decision to abandon a personal and independent drug testing program is justified because cycling’s biological passport makes the initiative unnecessary.

Seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong pledged when he returned to cycling last year after a three-year retirement he would submit to a rigid, independent regime of drug testing and that the results of those tests would be made public through a Web site.

He said Saturday he quickly found that plan impractical and likely to lead to distortion or misconceptions. He has since said his newly-formed American-based Radioshack team would not use independent testing.

Armstrong said he was drug tested 52 times in 2009, usually supplying both blood and urine samples, and the thoroughness of cycling’s current anti-doping programs made internal and personal testing needless.

“Five years ago (independent programs) were seen as the savior of cycling, the credibility of it. And then, all of a sudden, you have these attacks on these programs,” Armstrong said. “You sort of couldn’t please everybody.

“The biological passport has got to a point that it controls all those things that an independent program would do, which is good news.”

Armstrong said he hoped his move to dispense with a personal testing program would not be misconstrued.

“I would just encourage, before they all say ‘RadioShack abandoned their plans for an independent testing program’, I’m not sure anybody will have one,” he said.

“I think everyone will rely on the UCI (cycling’s world body) and the various international organizations to control all the programs.”

Armstrong said independent programs, such as the one he tried to implement, were subject to extreme and often unhelpful scrutiny. The study and comparison of data put on line could lead to flawed conclusions, he said.

“There were a few people who looked at the (data) that was put online and criticized or said ‘this is suspicious,'” he said.

“If you have 1,000 scientists looking at this and one says ‘this is suspicious’ — of course you’re going to have somebody say that — that’s the story that gets printed and obviously that’s frustrating for us.

“In this day and age, in 2010, in the time of blackberries and iPhones and computers and cell phones there’s no hiding, not even if you’re a Kenyan in a training camp in the mountains of Africa. You can always be found.”

Biological passports monitor a wide range of physiological or chemical values within a cyclist’s body and could show changes that might results from doping or other manipulation. Armstrong said the system was comprehensive and could be applied to other sports.

“I will say this, I don’t think it’s a perfect solution, I don’t think anybody does but it’s the next level when it comes to fighting doping in sport,” he said. “If you laid that over tennis, if you laid that over track and field, swimming … nobody’s testing to that level.”