Lance Armstrong, who has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life, was regularly tipped off over drugs tests, a leading French anti-doper claimed on Saturday.
The American went through his entire career without failing a drugs test, but Michel Rieu, the scientific advisor at France’s anti-doping body (AFLD) told Le Monde newspaper that Armstrong was warned when the testers were about to call.
“The testers found it difficult to carry out checks without Lance Armstrong benefitting from a delay of 20 minutes,” claimed Rieu.
“He was warned before any controls. In 20 minutes, a lot of manipulations are possible. Without information from police or customs, it was impossible to fight this way.”
Rieu claims that Armstrong has many supporters inside the sport, willing to help him when needed.
“This support went beyond the UCI (International Cycling Union) and the International Olympic Committee,” he said.
“Lance Armstrong was surrounded by scientific physiologists some of which were discarded later. He had considerable resources to protect and implement logistics.
“There were rumours that he transferred blood from the United States in his private jet,” claimed Rieu.
On Friday, the American anti-doping body (USADA) branded Armstrong a dope cheat, a day after the 40-year-old Texan said he would not pursue a bid to clear himself of charges that he used performance enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France from 1999 to 2005.
The agency laid out five rule violations for which Armstrong has been sanctioned, saying the cancer survivor who became a hero to millions took part in a systematic doping conspiracy with his then US Postal Service team.
It said that, as Armstrong has dropped out of an arbitration process, he “has received a lifetime period of ineligibility and disqualification of all competitive results from August 1, 1998 through the present”.
Armstrong has long denied accusations of doping but said Thursday he would no longer even address the issue.
“Today I turn the page,” he said. But hours after USADA’s announcement on Friday he made it clear that doesn’t mean he’ll disappear, tweeting his intention to compete in a local mountain bike race in the Aspen area in Colorado called the Power of Four on Saturday.