Tour chiefs cool on Armstrong
Tour de France officials keeping schtum on 'embarrassing' return of cyclist.
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2008 15:04 GMT

Prudhomme, left, declined to comment on Armstrong's plans [AFP]
Seven-times winner Lance Armstrong will make a Tour de France comeback next year – which could spark fireworks with organisers and the French media.

The rider had a poor relationship with Tour chiefs, especially after drug allegations appeared in a paper they had links to.

Shrugged off

But on Tuesday officials responded with a Gallic shrug to the announcement that he will return to France just weeks after riding in his first Giro d'Italia in May.

They said nothing had changed since Armstrong's surprise announcement in September that he planned to ride in the Tour again – even though he had since publicly expressed doubts about that idea.

"We're in the same situation," spokesman Christophe Marchadier said.

Tour chief Christian Prudhomme wouldn't comment "because he'll repeat the same thing, and he doesn't want to repeat himself," Marchadier added.

In September, Prudhomme said: "One cannot say that his comeback is good or bad news.

"But it really is news. It's making noise everywhere."

Long time no speak

Marchadier said Tour officials haven't had contact with Armstrong in a long time.

"Nobody even met with him when he came to Paris last week," he said.

"He's coming back, and if he abides by the rules, like all the other riders of the Tour, he'll be at the start."

French team leaders were even more stand-offish.

Eric Boyer, head of the International Association of Professional Cyclist Groups and sporting director for the French team Cofidis, said simply: "I don't want to react. It doesn't interest me."

Armstrong retired following his 2005 Tour de France victory and has since devoted himself to the fight against cancer – raising funds and awareness through his foundation.

Hero's return

His return has sparked fresh interest in the sport – desperately in need of a personality with drug scandals regularly hitting the headlines.

The Texas-born former road race world champion has said he will make his first race back in the Tour Down Under around Adelaide, Australia in January.

Armstrong has had a strained relationship with the Tour de France organisers, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), who said in October that his return would be "embarrassing".

The French daily newspaper L'Equipe, owned by ASO's parent company Editions Philippe Amaury (EPA), claimed three years ago that samples of Armstrong's urine from 1999 showed traces of the banned blood-boosting substance erythropoietin.

Armstrong, however, never tested positive and was cleared by a Dutch investigator appointed by the International Cycling Union.

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