Lance and the French authorities are sparring and the conflict, once again, centers around doping. Rather than try to summarize what happened, I am going to present (as I understand it) both sides of the story and then dissect the battle.
Lance claims that upon returning to his newly rented home near Nice, France after a long training ride, a man, claiming to be a sample collection person from the French National Drug Laboratory (AFLD) approached Armstrong outside his house and requested to take blood, urine and hair samples. Lance, who was with his team director Johan Bruyneel at the time, was not convinced that the person was legitimate so before he obliged the request, he wanted to check with the UCI.
Lance claims that while Johan called the UCI to check, he asked the collector if he could take a shower since he had just returned from a long, hard ride. The collector obliged. When Lance returned from his shower 20 minutes later, the collector's credentials had been verified and Lance willingly allowed the person to take blood, urine and hair samples.
The AFLD sample collector tells a different story. The collector claims that while his credentials were being verified, he told Lance several times that World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) dope collection protocol requires that once a collector has identified himself and has announced that he/she his there to collect samples, the athlete cannot leave the side of the collector.
The AFLD is concerned that since Lance left the side of the collector for 20 minutes he violated a part of the WADA doping code and because of this, he may be prohibited from racing in France which, of course, could put Armstrong's participation in the 2009 Tour in jeopardy.
Is this just a case of mis-communication or is one side in this dispute lying? I may be a bit naive, but I am not sure exactly what Lance could do to his blood, urine and hair in twenty minutes to taint his samples. Yes, he could use a catheter to insert clean urine, but you have to have that stuff lying around and also have a pretty sophisticated method for fooling all the doping controls at a moment's notice to make it work. That just seems too much for me.
Was the AFLD collector star-struck and allowed Lance to shower then changed his tune after either he/she or a colleague mentioned that this was a breach of WADA protocol?
Also, there is a third party involved here, Johan Bruyneel, so this isn't just a case of he said, she said. Bruyneel supports Lance Armstrong's side of the story. Also, Lance's Twitter account on the day of the collections doesn't indicate any dispute between Armstrong and the collector.
One could argue that Lance should have known that the WADA protocol requires that he not leave the side of a collector when sample collection is supposed to take place. On the flip side, if the credibility of the person was in doubt, maybe Lance did not feel his obligation to leave the collector's side only began if and when the person's credentials were verified.
Another point worth considering is that if there was any question as to the credentials of the collector, shouldn't Lance, knowing WADA protocol, just hunkered down and waited for verification. On the other hand, while it ended up taking only 20 minutes to verify the collector's credentials, what if it had taken two hours?
This is an interesting situation and because of that, I have been giving it a lot of thought. Clearly, none of us has all the information and most of what I am writing about is total speculation.
Is this just another case of the French hounding Lance or should Armstrong have behaved differently? Anyone?