French anti-doping chief steps down with parting gift for Lance Armstrong investigators
Texan cyclist bids "au revoir" to AFLD chief, but his '99 TDF samples may be heading Stateside
Pierre Bordry, head of AFLD, the French anti-doping body, has revealed that he is resigning after five years heading up the agency, a period in which he regularly came into conflict with the UCI, particularly over the issue of testing cyclists at the sport’s highest profile event, the Tour de France, as well as Lance Armstrong, the seven-time winner of the race.
Although he gave no reasons for his resignation, the 71-year-old has faced a struggle to obtain French government funding for the agency, which in turn has hampered his efforts to conduct targeted testing on some 450 athletes across a range of sports identified as a result of their strong performance or due to suspicions of doping.
Referring to his tenure at the head of the AFLD, Brodry told the Associated Press: "The agency structured and organized itself during this five-year spell, and I'm glad that the World Anti-Doping Agency says in its statistics that the AFLD is the most efficient agency in the world."
He added: “"Our agency is known worldwide. We showed to all IOC members that doping is not unavoidable, provided that one really wants to fight it."
The news of Bordry’s resignation was greeted by a message on Twitter from Lance Armstrong that read, “Au Revoir Pierre.” The pair have clashed in the past, including last year, when the AFLD warned Armstrong that it might take steps to exclude him from his comeback Tour de France after it claimed that he had failed to co-operate fully with one of its drugs testing officials.
The Team RadioShack rider, then with Astana, eventually rode in the Tour, finishing third behind team mate Alberto Contador following a three week race in which any pretence of co-operation between the pair disintegrated in the most public of fashions long before the Champs-Elysees came into view.
While it’s impossible to tell where exactly the Texan’s message to Brodry sits on the scale between sincerity and sarcasm, the future crossing of paths implied by his words may well take place sooner than Armstrong would like.
Only last week Brodry said that he was willing to release the cyclist’s B sample from the 1999 edition of the race to US Food & Drug Administration special agent Jeff Novitzky, should he request it as part of his investigation into doping within professional cycling in the United States.
In 2005, the French sports daily L’Equipe claimed that urine samples taken from Armstrong during the 1999 Tour de France, when he won the first of his seven consecutive overall titles, contained traces of EPO.
Although an independent report commissioned by the UCI from Dutch lawyer Emile Vrijman subsequently absolved Armstrong due to deficiencies in handling and testing of the samples at LNDD, the French national anti-doping laboratory, their existence continues to provoke controversy.
Last year, in an interview with the US website Velocity Nation, the Australian anti-doping expert Dr Michael Ashenden remarked: "The LNDD absolutely had no way of knowing athlete identity from the sample they're given. They have a number on them, but that's never linked to an athlete's name. The only group that had both the number and the athlete's name is the federation, in this case it was the UCI."
He continued: "There was only two conceivable ways that synthetic EPO could've gotten into those samples. One, is that Lance Armstrong used EPO during the '99 Tour. The other way it could've got in the urine was if, as Lance Armstrong seems to believe, the laboratory spiked those samples.
“Now, that's an extraordinary claim, and there's never ever been any evidence the laboratory has ever spiked an athlete's sample, even during the Cold War, where you would've thought there was a real political motive to frame an athlete from a different country. There's never been any suggestion that it happened," Dr Ashenden concluded.