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Lance Armstrong’s defense wheels spinning

Lawyers demand USADA evidence

LANCE ARMSTRONG Considering all options

AUSTIN, Texas - Lance Armstrong is gearing up for a fight over the latest round of doping allegations.

Armstrong’s lawyers demanded access to evidence gathered by the US Anti-Doping Agency, including test results and the names of witnesses who said they saw the seven-time Tour de France champion use performance-enhancing drugs.

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Armstrong has until June 22 to respond in writing to the fresh allegations, the first step of what could be a months-long process.

“I’m exploring all my options,’’ Armstrong said in a telephone interview Thursday from Paris. “They’re not limited only to arbitration with USADA. I think there are other questions that need to be answered with regard to their behavior and tactics.’’

“They are well known to move the goal line on you,’’ he said, referring to the drug agency.

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“We are entitled to certain things, certain pieces of evidence, if not all the evidence in terms of what will be in front of the review board,’’ he said.

The AP obtained a copy of the letter Armstrong’s attorney, Robert Luskin, sent to USADA.

“[We] cannot protect Mr. Armstrong’s rights without knowing who is saying what and what events that allegedly occurred over the course of a decade and a half,’’ Luskin wrote. “Even at this preliminary stage, your reliance on secret witnesses making deliberately vague charges is unconscionable.’’

The letter noted that USADA and other drug agencies “have long demonstrated their zeal to crucify Mr. Armstrong . . . We have learned the hard way not to underestimate USADA’s obsession with Mr. Armstrong.’’

In a previous letter, Luskin complained that USADA officials tagged along with federal criminal investigators to interview witnesses during a two-year probe that ended in February with no criminal charges against Armstrong.

Armstrong could be stripped of the Tour titles he won from 1999 to 2005 and banned from cycling, though he retired from the sport last year.

USADA says that blood samples from 2009 and 2010 are consistent with performance-enhancing drug use and that more than 10 former Armstrong teammates and support personnel will testify they saw him use drugs or talk about using them.

USADA has said it will not release the names of witnesses at this stage to protect them against possible attempts at intimidation.

The 40-year-old Armstrong was training for a June 24 triathlon in France, but was banned Wednesday when the new allegations were announced. He said Thursday he was returning to the United States, then decided to stay with hopes that triathlon officials would change their mind.

Jessica Weidensall, spokeswoman for World Triathlon Corp., which runs the Ironman competition, said race officials would announce an update on Armstrong’s status on Friday.

Pierre Bordry, who headed the French anti-doping agency from 2004 to 2010, said the USADA action was important to help defend the Tour de France image.

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