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Separation occurred two weeks ago

Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas -- Five-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong and his wife are separated and planning to divorce, according to a published report.

Armstrong told the Austin American-Statesman in Thursday's editions that he and wife Kristin separated two weeks ago, soon after they moved back to Austin from their European home in Girona, Spain. The couple is currently in mediation to reach a divorce settlement, while maintaining separate homes in Central Austin.

"It's an unfortunate situation,'' said Kristin Armstrong, 32. "We are making the best of it for the sake of our kids.''

The move follows five years of marriage and a separation in late January that was announced publicly one month later. The 31-year-old cyclist, who grabbed his record-tying fifth straight victory in cycling's most prestigious race this summer, later agreed to enter counseling in an effort to salvage their marriage.

Armstrong's wife and children -- 3-year-old Luke and 22-month-old twins Isabelle and Grace -- were with the cyclist in Paris on July 27 to celebrate his Tour victory. They left Paris together and spent time on a family vacation before returning to Austin late last month.

"We both have (legal) representation, and we're doing this peacefully,'' the cyclist said Wednesday. "The craziest thing is, we're closer now and better friends than ever before. We're truly committed to maintaining a good relationship, but not a marriage.''

Armstrong, along with his children, tossed a coin before Sunday's season opener for the University of Texas football team at Royal-Memorial Stadium. It was his first public appearance in Austin since the Tour victory. His wife did not accompany Armstrong and the children.

Armstrong, also a victor over testicular cancer, met his wife in January 1997, just weeks after he had completed intense chemotherapy to treat an advanced stage of the disease. The two started dating in June 1997 and were married 11 months later. Because Lance's cancer treatments could have made him sterile, he had banked his sperm before his chemotherapy.

All three children were born through in vitro fertilization. Luke was born in October 1999, three months after Lance won his first Tour. The twins were born in November 2001. Lance and Kristin Armstrong said they will remain in Austin after the divorce.

"The kids are our first priority,'' said the cyclist. "We're also going to be respectful of each other. Neither of us wants to get in the situation where when we drop off the kids, we can't look at each other.''

Kristin Armstrong earlier said several events related to her husband's celebrity and cancer comeback had strained the marriage. The Armstrongs' announcement came on the same day the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously congratulated him on his latest Tour victory.

"This distinguished body is recognizing the inspirational Lance Armstrong and his unbelievable courage, grit and determination,'' U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., said.




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