September 10, 2008
Armstrong Confirms Comeback Plan
By JULIET MACUR
After more than three years out of professional cycling, Lance Armstrong — the cancer survivor and seven-time Tour de France winner — announced Tuesday that he would emerge from retirement and climb back onto his bike.
In an e-mailed statement, Armstrong said he had discussed his comeback with his family and friends and decided to go ahead with it in order to “raise awareness of the global cancer burden.”
Armstrong, who turns 37 next week, did not explain his specific plans to compete again on an elite level, saying he would discuss his strategy at the Clinton Global Initiative on Sept. 24 in New York City.
He did not mention any possible team affiliations, but an article published Monday on the Web site of VeloNews, a prominent cycling publication, said Armstrong would join the Astana team next year. Johan Bruyneel, Armstrong’s former team manager, is the team manager of Astana.
The VeloNews story, citing “sources familiar with the developing situation,” said Armstrong will compete in five road races, including the Tour de France. The other events are the Amgen Tour of California, Paris-Nice, the Tour de Georgia and the Dauphiné Libéré.
In an article published Tuesday on the Web site of the magazine Vanity Fair, Armstrong discussed his comeback. He said he would contact President Nicolas Sarkozy of France to plead his case for an entry in the Tour de France if, “for some strange reason” the Amaury Sport Organization, which owns the Tour de France, does not give him and his team an entry into the race.
Armstrong said racing in the Leadville Trail 100, a 100-mile mountain bike race in August, spurred his interest in returning to the sport. In the Vanity Fair article, Armstrong said the Olympic triumphs of older athletes like the 41-year-old swimmer Dara Torres and the 38-year-old marathoner Constantina Tomescu-Dita showed him that it would be possible for him to return to racing even stronger than ever.
“Older athletes are performing very well,” Armstrong told the historian and journalist Douglas Brinkley. “Ask serious sports physiologists and they’ll tell you age is a wives’ tale. Athletes at 30, 35 mentally get tired. They’ve done their sport for 20, 25 years and they’re like, I’ve had enough. But there’s no evidence to support that when you’re 38 you’re any slower than when you were 32.”
Armstrong, who had been dogged by doping allegations during and even after his career, also mentioned that he wanted to test himself against athletes in this era of the sport. Referring to performance-enhancing drugs in cycling, he said there was a perception that this is the “cleanest generation” and that he had previously competed in the “dirty generation.”
“And, granted, I’ll be totally honest with you, the year that I won the Tour, many of the guys that got 2nd through 10th, a lot of them are gone. Out. Caught. Positive Tests. Suspended. Whatever. ... And so I can understand why people look at that and go, Well, [they] were caught — and you weren’t?” he told Vanity Fair. “So there is a nice element here where I can come with really a completely comprehensive program and there will be no way to cheat.”
Before the Leadville Trail 100 in August, in which Armstrong finished second, he began the proceedings for reinstatement to the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s out-of-competition testing pool, said Erin Hannan, a spokeswoman for the agency.
Athletes are required to be in the pool for at least six months before participating in elite-level competition, she said, though the Leadville race is not one of those competitions.