Armstrong could miss Tour due to drug allegations
Updated: Wednesday December 13, 2000 8:26 AM
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- The product at the core of doping allegations against Lance Armstrong's team in the Tour de France was banned Tuesday by the International Olympic Committee.
Armstrong, meanwhile, said he might not defend his championship in next year's Tour if charges of drug use continue.
The IOC medical commission said Actovegin, containing extracts of calf's blood, was banned as blood doping.
"I think we need to be very precise that the position of the medical commission is that this is a banned substance," panel chairman Prince Alexandre de Merode said. "There may have been a bit of hesitation a few months ago. This hesitation no longer exists today."
Actovegin has been at the center of controversy since October, when French judicial authorities opened a preliminary investigation into whether the US Postal Service team used banned substances during the 2000 Tour. Armstrong, who came back from cancer, won the Tour for the second consecutive year.
Armstrong and the team have repeatedly denied using banned drugs.
"Here's the bottom line to everyone: I'll start by saying that we are completely innocent," Armstrong said on his personal Web site Tuesday. "We run a very clean and professional team that has been singled out due to our success.
"I will say that the substance on people's minds, Activ-o-something [Actovegin] is new to me. Before this ordeal I had never heard of it, nor had my teammates."
Armstrong said that the drugs and medical products found near the team were simply tools to treat 25-50 people on the Tour de France over three weeks.
"If something were to go wrong with any of them, he [the team doctor] would be responsible for their well-being. That's why he would have things like adrenaline, cortisone, scissors, stitches, etc.," Armstrong said. "Some may be viewed as 'performance enhancers' but they're not used in that sense.
"And to so incorrectly call something a substitute for doping is clueless and irresponsible. I can assure everyone we do everything in the highest moral standard."
Armstrong also indicated he might skip the 2001 Tour if the charges of drug use persist.
"I will say that if the current situation exists, then I will not ride the Tour in 2001. Period," Armstrong said. "I'm not saying that to 'threaten' or 'warn' anyone as I really don't think the French care either way if I go."
The Paris prosecutor's office launched the investigation into the U.S. Postal team after receiving an anonymous letter saying suspicious behavior had been detected during the Tour. A TV crew noticed two men dumping plastic bags that contained compresses, packaging from foreign products and medicine, including Actovegin.
Actovegin, manufactured in Norway, contains deproteinized extracts of calf's blood. Injected into the body, it improves the circulation of oxygen in the blood in a manner similar to the banned drug EPO, or erythropoetin, which builds endurance by boosting the production of oxygen-rich red blood cells.
"It's advertised as enhancing the flow of oxygen to the brain," IOC medical director Patrick Schamasch said. "And if it brings oxygen to the brain, it can also bring oxygen to the other parts of the body."
De Merode said some Olympic teams brought Actovegin to the Sydney Games this year with the approval of Australian customs, which did not consider the product illegal.