Lance Armstrong held two press conferences this week, the first in New York on Wednesday and the second on Thursday at Interbike in Las Vegas to announce the plans for his return to cycling. After the dust had settled we now know enough to create an interesting picture. Lance will be riding for Team Astana, re-united with his former Team Director Johan Bruyneel. He will receive no salary for his services, but will be asking the team to pay for certain things, one such item is the cost of his drug testing. His major reason for returning to competitive cycling is to improve the global awareness of cancer.
Lance has asked Don Catlin who ran the WADA-accredited drug testing lab at UCLA to spearhead the testing effort which will be longitudinal meaning that Catlin will monitor a number of physiological parameters over time, looking for abnormal fluctuations which might indicate use of performance enhancing drugs(PED's). This is very similar to the WADA proposal for biological passports. The results of the tests will be posted on a website for all to see.
When it comes to a racing schedule, Armstrong has committed to the Australian Tour Down Under in January 2009 and the Amgen Tour of California in February 2009, but his plans for the Tour de France are not clear at this time.
Armstrong is also creating a U23 development team built around 2008 Beijing Olympian and teen phenom Taylor Phinney. About nine riders are expected to join Phinney with Axel Merckx to be the team director.
There was a bit of drama at the Las Vegas press conference when Greg Lemond asked several questions about the type of longitudinal tests to which Lance will be subjected. While Greg may have had a valid point to make, his rambling style made his questions seem more like a whitch hunt than a direct request for information/clarification. If Greg is sincere in his concerns about Lance's return to cycling, he needs to be more coherent and concise in his questioning. To his credit, Lance handled the whole affair very diplomatically . Hopefully, Greg can effectively communicate his concerns so incidents such as this do not become commonplace.
Obviously, there are many more details forthcoming and we should learn more about them in the coming months. Suffice it to say that Armstrong is back and he has set up a scenario in which there should be no doubts as to whether he is racing clean. Welcome back Lance.
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