- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2006

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — Dutch investigators today cleared Lance Armstrong of doping in the 1999 Tour de France and accused anti-doping authorities of misconduct in dealing with the American cyclist.

A 132-page report recommended convening a tribunal to discuss possible legal and ethical violations by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) 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 from 1999, when he won the first of his record seven straight Tour titles, came back positive for the endurance-boosting hormone EPO when they were retested in 2004.

Armstrong has repeatedly denied using banned substances.

The International Cycling Union last October appointed Dutch lawyer Emile Vrijman to investigate the handling of urine tests from the 1999 Tour by the French national anti-doping laboratory, known by its French acronym LNDD.

Vrijman said yesterday that his report “exonerates Lance Armstrong completely with respect to alleged use of doping in the 1999 Tour de France.”

The report also says the cycling union did not damage Armstrong by releasing doping control forms to the French newspaper.

The report says WADA and the LNDD may have “behaved in ways that are completely inconsistent with the rules and regulations of international anti-doping control testing” and that also may have been against the law.

EPO, or erythropoietin, is a synthetic hormone that boosts the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Testing for EPO began in 2001.

Armstrong had challenged the validity of testing samples frozen six years ago and how they were handled.

Vrijman said a further investigation was needed regarding the leaking of the results to the French paper.

He said a tribunal should be created to “provide a fair hearing” to the people and organizations suspected of misconduct and to decide on sanctions if warranted. Vrijman’s statement did not specify what the purported violations were.

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