Cycling body clears Lance Armstrong for comeback race in January

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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GENEVA Cyclings governing body is relaxing its rules to allow Lance Armstrong to make his comeback at a road race in Australia in January.

The International Cycling Union said the seven-time Tour de France champion can compete in the Jan. 20-25 Tour Down Under, his first race since coming out of retirement after three years.

A strict application of testing rules would not have allowed the 37-year-old Texan to compete until Feb. 1, 2009, six months after he filed paperwork with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

But the UCI said Wednesday that Armstrong could return early because its drug-testing standards have improved since the rule was drawn up four years ago.

Riders are now subject to a much-reinforced system of monitoring compared to that of the past, the governing body said in a statement. Lance Armstrong has and will be the subject of very strict monitoring throughout the period running up to his return to the peloton.

Armstrongs comeback is meant to draw attention to his global campaign to fight cancer, a disease he survived before winning seven straight Tours from 1999-2005.

It is also a defiant stand against critics who doubt he could have achieved those victories without the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Now he is liable to be tested at any time without notice and will have his own biological passport as part of a UCI-backed initiative to monitor possible doping offences.

Riders must give a series of blood and urine samples that allow a World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory to establish a baseline. Fluctuations from those readings afterward could indicate doping.

Armstrong said last month he was tested in late August, and has enlisted personal anti-doping expert Don Catlin, who will make his test results available to the public.

Catlin, who ran the first anti-doping lab in the United States at UCLA for 25 years, will freeze and keep samples of Armstrongs blood to be analyzed in the future.

Armstrong will not be paid for returning to the saddle and the testing costs will be covered by his Kazakhstan-based Astana team, which is managed by his cycling mentor Johan Bruyneel.

Organizations: International Cycling Union, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, World Anti-Doping Agency UCLA

Geographic location: GENEVA, Australia, United States

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