Lance Armstrong's Team Denies Doping

The head of the U.S. Postal Service cycling team — under investigation in France for possible doping during the 2000 Tour de France — says he is “absolutely convinced” that his riders respected anti-doping rules, according to a statement received today.

The team’s star-rider Lance Armstrong won the July Tour, cycling’s premier competition, for the second straight year.

French judicial sources said Tuesday that the prosecutor’s office opened a preliminary investigation on Oct. 18 into possible doping following an anonymous tip.

Manager Insists Compliance

A statement from U.S. Postal Service General Manager Mark Gorski, dated Tuesday but received here today, said that he had learned of the investigation from the media, and discussed the issue with team sports director Johan Bruyneel and the medical staff.

“I … am absolutely convinced that there were no improprieties,” the statement said.

“If there is an official inquiry, we are confident that it will find that the team was in full compliance with the strict guidelines” of the International Cycling Union, or UCI.

The statement reiterated that the team adheres to the UCI’s “zero-tolerance policy” concerning use of banned substances.

Bruyneel told The Associated Press on Tuesday that neither he nor any member of the team in the United States has been approached by French officials about an investigation.

“Of course, I continue to deny all doping allegations,” he said.

Repeated Cycling Scandals

Armstrong, who recovered from testicular cancer to become the Tour’s two-time winner, has been hounded by allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs.

The Tour was shaken by a drug scandal in 1998, and the Festina team was expelled when its physiotherapist was caught with a stash of drugs in a team car. Revelations of widespread drug use in the cycling world came out at a trial of some Festina members that ended Tuesday.

The newspaper Le Monde reported Tuesday that the preliminary investigation of U.S. Postal Service began after the prosecutor’s office received an anonymous letter saying suspicious behavior had been detected by a TV crew of the state-run France 3 station during the Tour.

According to Le Monde, the TV crew had noticed suspicious activity near the U.S. Postal team. It included the coming and going of two men who loaded large car with German license plates with plastic bags, then unloaded them in another spot.

Compresses, some packaging from foreign products and medicine were among the items found in the plastic bags, Le Monde wrote.

“There is no mysterious car associated with our team,” Dan Osipow, operations director for U.S. Postal Service, said by telephone from his U.S. offices. He refused further immediate comment.

The weekly Le Canard Enchaine reported today that packaging marked Actovegin, a Norwegian medical product that is not on the banned substances list, was among items found. Actovegin, which contains deproteinized extracts of calf’s blood, improves the circulation of oxygen in the blood in a manner similar to the banned drug EPO, or erythropoetin. EPO enhances endurance by boosting the production of oxygen-rich red blood cells.