Armstrong Cleared Of Doping Charge

The frontpage of French sports daily l'Equipe reported Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2005, that Lance Armstrong used the performance-enhancing drug EPO to win his first Tour de France title in 1999, a claim the seven-time American champion immediately denied. L'Equipe devoted four pages to its allegations, with the front-page headline "The Armstrong Lie".
Lance Armstrong called it a "witch hunt" from the very beginning, saying a French newspaper used dubious evidence to accuse him of doping, even charging that lab officials mishandled his samples and broke the rules.

According to a Dutch investigator's findings released Wednesday, he may have been right.

The report, commissioned late last year by the International Cycling Union, cleared the record seven-time Tour de France champion of allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs during his first win in 1999.

It said tests on urine samples were conducted improperly and fell so short of scientific standards that it was "completely irresponsible" to suggest they "constitute evidence of anything."

The investigation also concluded that the French laboratory that handled the samples and the World Anti-Doping Agency "violated applicable rules on athlete confidentiality by commenting publicly on the alleged positive findings."

No one, critics said, could rise, literally, from his death bed and overcome a ravenous form of testicular cancer to cleanly win the world's most grueling race, reports CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian.

That Wednesday's report exonerated Armstrong came as no surprise to his longtime coach, Chris Carmichael.

"He's the most tested athlete that's probably walked the face of the Earth and he's never come up positive," Carmichael told Keteyian.

The report recommended convening a tribunal to discuss possible legal and ethical violations by WADA, which is headed by Dick Pound, and to consider "appropriate sanctions to remedy the violations."

The French sports daily L'Equipe reported in August that six of Armstrong's urine samples taken in 1999 came back positive for the endurance-boosting hormone EPO when they were retested in 2004.

Armstrong has repeatedly denied using banned substances.

In a statement Wednesday, he said he was pleased that the investigation confirms "what I have been saying since this witch hunt began: Dick Pound, WADA, the French laboratory, the French Ministry of Sport, L'Equipe, and the Tour de France organizers ... have been out to discredit and target me without any basis and falsely accused me of taking performance enhancing drugs in 1999.