'I love France'
Armstrong counting on impartiality in doping probe
PARIS (AP) -- Lance Armstrong has declared his love for the host nation of the Tour de France despite being the subject of a doping investigation here.
"I love France," the French sports daily L'Equipe on Saturday quoted Armstrong as telling journalists in Altea, southeast Spain, where the American rider was training with his U.S. Postal Service team.
"I have never said that I didn't like France and the French," Armstrong, winner of the Tour de France cycling race in 1999 and 2000, was quoted as telling reporters Friday.
However, Armstrong conceded that "our image has suffered" from an ongoing investigation by French judicial authorities into whether his team used banned substances during last year's Tour.
"I am just counting on the impartiality of the justice system," he was quoted as saying in L'Equipe, which did not indicate whether Armstrong made the comments in English.
Armstrong came back from testicular cancer to twice win the Tour de France.
The 29-year-old Texan repeatedly has denied taking illegal substances, and U.S. Postal Service officials have said the team respects anti-drug rules.
Armstrong's provisional competition schedule for 2001, posted on his official Web site earlier this month, did not include any races in France apart from the Tour de France, leading to speculation that he was cold shouldering France because of the drug investigation.
Last year Armstrong competed in four French cycling races in addition to the Tour.
L'Equipe quoted Armstrong as denying rumors that he planned to sell his residence in Nice, in southeast France to move to Girona in Spain.