Cycling: Lawyer to spearhead Armstrong doping investigation

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The Independent Online

Emile Vrijman has been named by cycling's governing body, the UCI, as head of the panel that will look into reports published in late August by the French newspaper L'Equipe saying that the seven-times Tour winner Armstrong took the banned red-blood cell booster EPO six years ago.

The UCI's recently elected president, Irishman Pat McQuaid, said last week that he supported an independent enquiry into the affair.

Previously unconnected with cycling, Vrijman is familiar with the potentially murky terrain he has to cover. Before becoming one of the Netherland's most well-known sports lawyers he was a director in the Dutch national anti-doping agency.

Armstrong has ferociously denied the allegations, denouncing the affair as a "witch-hunt" and "persecution" and questioning the ethics of the way in which the newspaper managed to identify his urine samples from the 1999 Tour.

The UCI took the opportunity provided by launching its own investigation to criticise another enquiry into the same case soon to be started by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The UCI said it feared "the Wada enquiry would be based on aspects out of its competence" - without specifying what those aspects were.

The two institutions have been at loggerheads ever since Wada's president, Dick Pound, accused the recently retired UCI chief, Hein Verbruggen, of being partly responsible for the leaks to L'Equipe which sparked the Armstrong affair.

"There's [Wada president] Dick Pound on one side, [UCI president] Hein Verbruggen on the other, and Lance is stuck in the middle," his former team manager Johan Bruyneel said a few weeks ago.

The creation of parallel enquiries could be seen as a prolongation of this conflict.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for 'Cycling Weekly'