Embattled cycling chiefs deny Armstrong cover-up

Paris: World cycling chiefs have vehemently denied covering up a positive drugs test by retired cycling champion Lance Armstrong, following claims by disgraced former cyclist Tyler Hamilton.

Seven-time Tour de France champion Armstrong is currently weathering the storm of a US federal investigation into claims that his former team US Postal used public money to fund a comprehensive doping programme.

Federal investigators have travelled to Europe and beyond in a bid to gather evidence for their investigation, calling on a number of former teammates and employees of Armstrong`s squad to give testimony.

Hamilton, a former teammate of Armstrong`s at US Postal, told CBS television`s "60 Minutes" last weekend details of his testimony before a grand jury, which is investigating the US cycling icon, that Armstrong was part of a sophisticated doping program.

The American also appeared to corroborate previous claims by another disgraced cyclist, Floyd Landis, when he accused the International Cycling Union (UCI) of covering up a positive test by Armstrong at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland.

The UCI last week launched legal proceedings to counter Landis`s claims.

And a statement from the UCI on Monday said Armstrong has never been the subject of a cover-up.

"The International Cycling Union categorically rejects the allegations made by Mr Tyler Hamilton, who claims that Lance Armstrong tested positive for EPO (erythropoietin) during the 2001 Tour of Switzerland and had the results covered up after one of his representatives approached the Lausanne laboratory responsible for analysing test results from the event.”

"The UCI is deeply shocked by the seriousness of the allegations made on the `60 Minutes` programme aired by US television network CBS, and by the extent of the media interest in the case, and wishes to state once again that it has never altered or hidden the results of a positive test."

Calling Hamilton`s claims "completely unfounded", the UCI added: "The UCI can only confirm that Lance Armstrong has never been notified of a positive test result by any anti-doping laboratory."

In Hamilton`s television interview the American claims he saw Armstrong take the banned blood booster EPO, and also that he saw the champion having a performance-enhancing blood transfusion.

Armstrong`s lawyer Mark Fabiani hit back: Lance Armstrong is the most tested athlete in the history of sports: He has passed nearly 500 tests over 20 years of competition."

However Hamilton countered Armstrong`s claim of having never failed a drug test by saying that Armstrong told him in a relaxed, "off the cuff" manner that he had failed a test at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland.

"People took care of it," Hamilton said.

"I don`t know all the exact details but Lance`s people and people from the other side, people I believe from the governing body of the sport, figured out a way for it to go away. I was told this (by) Lance."

The UCI added in the statement: "Once again, the UCI wishes to state that no manipulation or cover-up has occurred in respect of its anti-doping procedures.”

"The UCI will continue to defend its honour and credibility by all means available, and reserves the right to take any measures it deems necessary against Mr Hamilton or any other person."

Bureau Report

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