Armstrong to join Bruyneel
He eyes 'clean' start with Astana
NEW YORK - Lance Armstrong is chasing an eighth Tour de France title and an elusive feat: persuading everyone he's clean.
As Armstrong reunites with his close friend and Astana team director Johan Bruyneel, the man behind his yellow jerseys, he's also adding a new member to his support group. Anti-doping expert Don Catlin has been hired to test Armstrong anytime, anywhere - and to post the results online for the world to see.
"I think it's the first time an athlete can actually be totally validated on the chance he's successful," Armstrong said yesterday. "In my opinion, Don Catlin is beyond reproach."
Armstrong revealed details of his comeback two weeks after saying he would end a three-year retirement. He'll ride for Astana and will compete in the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, Australia, in January.
As he described his 2009 Tour plans, the 37-year-old Armstrong sometimes made it sound as though this was more a publicity move to raise awareness about the fight against cancer than a legitimate shot at winning an eighth title.
"I think we're sure we'll have success with the movement, because we need it," he said. "But I'm not sure I'll be the fastest cyclist in the world."
Astana was banned from this year's Tour because of past doping violations. But Pat McQuaid, the leader of cycling's governing body, said he believed the team would be allowed to return in 2009.
The makeup of the 2009 Astana team is unclear. Alberto Contador, the 2007 Tour de France champ, suggested in AS newspaper Tuesday that the two elite riders couldn't coexist on the same team.
In a statement released by Astana yesterday, Contador was conciliatory but didn't commit to remaining on the team.
"Right now people are looking to make up controversy, but honestly I have no ill will towards Lance," he said. "I identify with his passion for the sport. He has certainly been a role model for me and others throughout the world, and I imagine having him on Team Astana will only motivate me further."
Contador, signed with Astana through 2010, won the Spanish Vuelta Sunday. Combined with his 2008 Giro d'Italia title, he became just the fifth cyclist to win the three highest-regarded Tours.
"I think there's room for all of us on that team," Armstrong said.
Another Astana rider, American Levi Leipheimer, is a former Armstrong teammate with US Postal Service.
"He will make everyone on the team better, and that is a good thing," Leipheimer said from the cycling world championships in Varese, Italy.
Armstrong, the greatest rider of his generation, is counting on Catlin to help cement his legacy. Catlin will be paid by Astana.
Catlin oversaw testing for anabolic agents at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and ran the country's first anti-doping lab at UCLA for 25 years.