Montreal – Lance Armstrong, branded a drug cheat by the US Anti-Doping Agency, said Wednesday he was “not afraid” of any report Usada might make to the International Cycling Union.
“No, no, I'm absolutely not afraid,” Armstrong told AFP after he was joined by hundreds of fans for a seven-and-a-half-kilometre training run up Mount Royal, the peak that rises in the midst of the Island of Montreal.
The US cycling icon and cancer survivor had invited Montrealers to join him for the run via Twitter, and the large turnout demonstrated his continuing appeal despite Usada's announcement that it was banning him for life and stripping him of his seven Tour de France titles.
“My name is Lance Armstrong, I'm a cancer survivor... and yes, I won the Tour de France seven times,” Armstrong said Wednesday, drawing applause and smiles from delegates at the World Cancer Congress.
“And for those who don't know what I'm talking about, I love you,” he added cheerily.
Usada said Friday that Armstrong would be banned for life and his results since 1998 – including seven Tour titles won from 1999-2005 – would be expunged due to “numerous” anti-doping violations, including playing a role in trafficking and administering performance-enhancing drugs to other athletes.
The agency's move followed Armstrong's own announcement that he would no longer seek to clear his name through independent arbitration.
Armstrong, who has vehemently denied doping during his career, has questioned Usada's authority to ban him, and the UCI has demanded a full account of the agency's findings.
Usada, which said it has as many as 10 witnesses prepared to testify to Armstrong's drug use, made it clear the UCI and Tour de France organizers should honor its findings under the World Anti-Doping Code.
Armstrong touched only lightly on the issue in his remarks to the cancer congress, and vowed that it wouldn't affect his charitable work.
He told conference delegates that there is still “too much to be done” in the fight against cancer.
“I won't be distracted,” Armstrong added, alluding to the doping scandal.
His Livestrong campaign has already collected nearly $500 million for cancer research and helping people cope with the disease. And Armstrong announced that his foundation would donate an additional $500,000 to a joint initiative aimed at increasing access to cancer care throughout the world. – Sapa-AFP