The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) took to the offense Monday morning, addressing questions over whether Lance Armstrong was clean in his 2009 comeback or, rather, questions of whether the UCI ran the American’s samples through the biological passport ringer, and if they passed anti-doping muster.
A thorny issue since Armstrong confessed to doping his way to each of his now-stripped seven Tour de France wins is the notion of his comeback. The Texan maintains he rode in 2009 and 2010 on bread and water, but investigators say otherwise. It is but one crack in cycling’s foundation, but it’s launched a war of words between a top anti-doping scientist — Dr. Michael Ashenden — and the sport’s governing body.
Ashenden has claimed that Armstrong’s biological passport data from 2009 is indicative of blood doping and last week claimed that he had not reviewed any Armstrong samples as part of the UCI’s passport review panel, from which he resigned in 2012.
Last week in an e-mail to VeloNews, Ashenden said he would “lay London to a brick” that he didn’t review an Armstrong sample, and that if he did, he welcomed the UCI to publish that fact, and his opinion on the sample.
“The ball is now in the UCI’s court on that one,” he wrote in an e-mail.
The UCI took that ball, and decided it would bounce something back, announcing Monday that Ashenden had in fact reviewed an Armstrong sample and found no abnormalities.
“Michael Ashenden’s assertion that he never had the opportunity to review Lance Armstrong’s profile is very surprising,” said Enrico Carpani, the UCI’s communications director. “First of all, I would like to point out that Dr. Ashenden’s claims that the UCI never submitted Lance Armstrong’s profile is not only untrue, but it shows that he would appear to have little knowledge or an astonishingly inaccurate knowledge of how the whole system works.”
In an e-mail to VeloNews, Carpani wrote: “As everyone should know, the APMU (Athletes Passport Management Unit, which is an independent unit established in Lausanne) regularly submits profiles to the experts of the panel. This procedure is strictly anonymous, which means that neither Dr. Ashenden nor any other expert would ever have known when or how many times the profile of one rider or another was submitted to him. Having said that, the UCI wishes to confirm that on May 4, 2009 Dr. Ashenden and two other experts on the Biological Passport panel received the profiles of eight riders. These profiles were selected randomly and included that of Lance Armstrong.
“This profile was based on nine results of analyses carried out in 2008 (Oct. 16, Nov. 26, Dec. 3, Dec. 11 and Dec. 18) and 2009 (Jan. 16, Feb. 4, Feb. 13, March 11).
Carpani noted that in his response to Armstrong’s profile, Ashenden is the only of three reviewers to note the profile as “normal” without making additional remarks, and did so more frequently than the other reviewers on that spate of passports.
“The UCI is, once again, concerned by the inaccurate and flimsy manner in which Dr. Ashenden comments on this case. Although we obviously cannot make the relevant documents public, they are available for inspection by Dr. Ashenden at any time should he wish to come and verify the truth of the above information,” Carpani concluded.
Ashenden was not immediately available for comment on this story.