Armstrongs much-publicized drug-testing program is scrapped

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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DENVER - American cyclist Lance Armstrong scrapped his much-publicized plan to set up an independent drug-testing program Wednesday because of high costs and nearly impossible logistics.
When Armstrong announced his comeback last year, the seven-time Tour de France winner said he wanted to prove he was clean, and was teaming with anti-doping expert Don Catlin, who would test him and post the results online.
But after months of negotiations, both sides realized the program wasn't workable this year. Instead, Armstrong is set to announce Thursday that he'll post test results from cycling's international federation and his own Astana cycling team on his website, www.livestrong.com
"It was going to be difficult," Catlin said. "There were so many issues in trying to get this going - legal issues, financial issues, and we sort of tried every which way.
"Finally, it made more sense to put it aside for the moment and maybe take it up at another time."
Armstrong began his comeback last month in Australia. He is training this month with Team Astana in preparation for the Tour of California, which starts Saturday. He also has announced plans to ride in the Tour de France this summer.
Mark Higgins, Armstrong's spokesman, did not immediately return a telephone message.
The news first was reported by The New York Times.
Armstrong still will be subject to testing by UCI, cycling's international body, and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Part of the problem in working out a deal with Catlin was the logistical issues of adding another round of tests.
"And we were having to figure out how to pay for it," Catlin said. "You're co-ordinating collectors ... doing all these things. It became a nightmare of logistic issues and also, when you're drawing blood, an athlete can rightfully complain if you take too much."
Armstrong bristled at an AP report that came out in November, shortly before he was to begin training in earnest, that said the website he promised when he announced his return was non-existent.
"It's a tough thing to organize, but we'll make it happen," he said.
He added that he stood ready to be tested every day. "Whether I'm in France or in LA, no one's trying to pull a fast one here," he said.
Though he never tested positive during his record-setting career, suspicions were always out there, which was one reason the 37-year-old cyclist went to Catlin to quiet the naysayers. Catlin long has been acknowledged as the gold standard in anti-doping testing. He ran America's first anti-doping lab in UCLA for 25 years and left to set up the non-profit Anti-Doping Research to develop new ways of catching drug cheats.
He is a proponent of performing baseline tests of athletes for a number of illegal substances, then comparing subsequent tests against the original results. It is widely considered a more accurate way of testing than the method most commonly used, but is also more expensive and time-intensive.
UCI has begun performing baseline tests. Under Catlin's program, Armstrong presumably would have been tested the same way - but there were too many moving parts to make it work this year.
"We were going to put it on the web and that got a lot of internal flak because we didn't have horsepower to deal with it," Catlin said.
He said it would have taken two scientists devoted primarily to the website to post the results and explain what they meant.

Organizations: Armstrong's, New York Times, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency UCLA Anti-Doping Research

Geographic location: California, DENVER, Australia America

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