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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

No, Lance

It bothers me when atheletes do the whole I'm-Retiring Thing, only to come back to their sport a few months later. I mean, c'mon, retire or don't retire. If you tell us you're retiring, then go. Some sportsmen seem to come and go more frequently than my anxiety, and God knows that's saying something.

So I'm not best pleased at reading the news that Armstrong may be planning to overturn his retirement decision and go for an eighth win in the Tour. On the one hand, I understand that his career - his life - has been based on proving people wrong, and so I understand that he might want to get back at the French by riding.

But, on the other, I admired the way in which he retired. There was no back and forth once the announcement had been made. He maintained that nothing would bring him back to the sport; that he was now moving onto the next phase of his life. I respected that, and believed him.

But now that there seems to be some debate about him coming back, I feel strangely disappointed. The thing about Lance is that when he says something, he says it so vehemently that you can't help but believe him. But if he goes back on his vow to retire and not be tempted back, it's gonna be tougher to believe him the next time he swears something. And, sadly, the thing he swears most frequently - that he doesn't, and hasn't doped - is the very reason he's considering breaking the retirement vow. It's left me feeling a little uncomfortable.

The article in question, for information. And, for the record, I can't possibly believe that winning an eighth Tour is going to do anything other than piss the French press off even more, leading to even more of a doping witch hunt than exists already (and, let's not kid ourselves, it does exist):

Armstrong is engaged and contemplating a comeback
Seven-time Tour de France champ says he might ride again.

By Suzanne Halliburton

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Cycling champion Lance Armstrong is engaged to rock star Sheryl Crow and is considering coming out of retirement to try for an eighth consecutive Tour de France victory, he told the Austin American-Statesman on Monday.

Since Armstrong and Crow have been living together for 18 months, their engagement may have been expected, though the couple has been dispelling breakup rumors since May.

But a spring wedding followed by a summer Tour?

"I'm thinking about it," Armstrong said. "I'm thinking it's the best way to piss (the French) off."

Armstrong said he has entertained the idea for only the past two weeks. He said he began thinking about it when a French newspaper reported Aug. 23 that he had tested positive six times for a banned blood booster as he was winning his first Tour in 1999.

When asked how serious he was about another Tour, Armstrong said, "I'm exercising every day."

Armstrong has made a career of proving people wrong, winning a record seven Tours after surviving advanced testicular cancer in 1996. And he often is at his best when he's got a motivational chip on his shoulder.

Since the articles appeared in L'Equipe, an all-sports daily newspaper based in Paris, Armstrong has vehemently denied ever using erythropoietin, a blood booster that has been illegally used by cyclists for years.

A French laboratory outside Paris, trying to perfect relatively new testing procedures for EPO, used urine samples provided by Tour cyclists in 1999 in its research. All samples were anonymous and assigned a number, and all were B — or backup — specimens, the A samples having been tested and discarded in 1999.

Armstrong provided 17 urine samples in 1999, representing every day he wore the leader's yellow jersey in the three-week Tour.

Researchers have concluded that EPO can stay in the body and be detected by a urine test for up to one week. According to L'Equipe, which claimed it was able to match up the numbers with the names of the cyclists, Armstrong tested positive six times. It did not mention the other 11 samples.

The International Cycling Union began investigating the matter Aug. 29. The nonprofit regulatory organization, based in Switzerland, is expected to announce its results this week. USA Cycling already has issued a statement supporting Armstrong.

Last April, Armstrong announced that this year's Tour would be his final race. He stayed conservative throughout the Tour, winning only one stage, but still coasted to a 4-minute, 40-second margin of victory over Italy's Ivan Basso.

As for the engagement, Armstrong said he popped the question to Crow on Wednesday while they were vacationing in Sun Valley, Idaho.

"We've told family and friends, stuff like that," he said. Armstrong added that he discussed the engagement with his three children before he asked Crow.

It will be Armstrong's second marriage and Crow's first.

Although still officially retired, Armstrong hasn't been able to spend much time in Austin. He said he will maintain a busy schedule at least through mid-September. Armstrong is set to tape an interview with Oprah Winfrey on Wednesday, and he'll return to Idaho next week to meet with the Dalai Lama.

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