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Lance quashes chance of coming out of retirement

The nasty tug of war between the bosses of the international
cycling union and the World Anti-Doping Agency over who leaked
documents accusing Lance Armstrong of doping claimed its first
casualty Thursday: any chance of a comeback by the seven-time Tour
de France champion.

Armstrong, who said just days ago that this latest fight to
clear his name had stoked his competitive desires, made clear
Thursday he wasn't interested in returning to the sport he
dominated.
"Sitting here today, dealing with all this stuff again, knowing
if I were to go back, there's no way I could get a fair shake -- on
the roadside, in doping control, or the labs," Armstrong said on a
late-afternoon conference call.
"I think it's better that way," he added a moment later. "I'm
happy with the way my career went and ended and I'm not coming
back."
Armstrong and his handlers spent most of the remaining 45
minutes with reporters criticizing WADA chief Dick Pound.
It was Pound who set off another round of charges and
counter-charges earlier Thursday by accusing cycling union boss
Hein Verbruggen of supplying documents used by a French newspaper
to charge that Armstrong used the blood-boosting drug EPO during
his first tour win in 1999.
Armstrong, who has repeatedly denied ever using banned drugs,
said he was the victim of a "witch hunt" after the report came
out last month in L'Equipe, France's leading sports daily.
Armstrong said he was concerned Pound might be seeking revenge
for an open letter he sent to newspapers and the WADA chief several
years ago, defending his sport against the widely held notion that
cycling was rife with performance-enhancing drugs.
"I was not trying to say that Dick was a bad guy or a crook,"
Armstrong said of his letter, "but I might want to say that today.
... He's trying to divert attention from the serious ethical issues
involving WADA and himself."
His agent and attorney went even further, accusing Pound of
smearing Armstrong in public without conclusive proof or due
process. They also said Pound had a hand in ensuring that an
identifying code was included with the results of tests for EPO
conducted by a French lab on Armstrong's urine samples six years
after they were taken.
If true, that would violate WADA's own protocol requiring that
any tests be done strictly for purposes of research.
Calls seeking comment from Pound at both his WADA office and
home in Montreal were not immediately returned Thursday.
Earlier Thursday, Pound said he received a letter from
Verbruggen acknowledging the cycling union, known as UCI, had
provided L'Equipe's reporter with forms indicating Armstrong had
doped during his first Tour victory.
"Mr. Verbruggen told us that he showed all the forms of Mr.
Armstrong to L'Equipe and that he even gave the journalist a copy
of one of the documents," Pound said during a conference call from
Montreal.
"I don't understand why they're not stepping up to that and
saying, 'Well, I guess we do know how the name got public, we made
it possible,' " he said.
But Armstrong said that he himself had authorized releasing the
forms to L'Equipe. He said the request from the newspaper was to
check whether the UCI had granted him any medical exemptions during
competition, not to find out if the numerical code used by race
official to identify Armstrong matched the one attached to the
urine samples.
Last Friday, the UCI said it had not received enough information
to make a judgment on the doping accusations.
It also criticized L'Equipe for targeting Armstrong and Pound
for making public statements on the "likely guilt of the athlete"
without knowing all the facts.
Pound countered by saying, "It's .... quite clear the only way
there could have been a match between the code numbers and a
particular athlete was on the basis of information supplied by the
UCI."
He then questioned the UCI's willingness to fully investigate
L'Equipe's accusations and wondered whether the cycling body was
merely looking for a "scapegoat."
If so, Armstrong suggested Pound should look in a mirror.
"Is Dick Pound a vindictive person and somebody who holds
grudges?" he said. "Perhaps."
Armstrong again refused to rule out legal action against
L'Equipe. And while he said again he wouldn't make a comeback next
summer, it's not because of a lack of competitive desire.
Asked whether rumors that President Bush beat him in a bike race
during a visit to Crawford, Texas, several weeks ago, Armstrong
replied, "no," but insisted the president was a strong rider.
"But we didn't subject him to any medical controls, so we don't
know if his performance was enhanced. In my opinion," he added,
laughing, "it was suspicious."