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Report clears Armstrong of doping in 1999 Tour de France

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — A Dutch investigator's report cleared Lance Armstrong of doping in the 1999 Tour de France on Wednesday, calling the accusations against him "completely irresponsible" and raising the possibility of misconduct by anti-doping authorities.

The 132-page report recommended convening a tribunal to discuss possible legal and ethical violations by the World Anti-Doping Agency and to consider "appropriate sanctions to remedy the violations."

The French sports daily L'Equipe reported in August that six of Armstrong's urine samples from 1999, when he won the first of his record seven straight Tour titles, came back positive for the endurance-boosting hormone EPO when they were retested in 2004.

Armstrong has repeatedly denied using banned substances.

"Today's comprehensive report makes it clear that there is no truth to that accusation," Armstrong said in a statement. "I have now retired, but for the sake of all athletes still competing who deserve a level playing field and a fair system of drug testing, the time has come to take action against these kinds of attacks before they destroy the credibility of WADA and, in turn, the international anti-doping system."

The International Cycling Union appointed Dutch lawyer Emile Vrijman last October to investigate the handling of urine tests from the 1999 Tour by the French national anti-doping laboratory, known by its French acronym LNDD.

Vrijman said Wednesday his report "exonerates Lance Armstrong completely with respect to alleged use of doping in the 1999 Tour de France."

The report said tests on the samples were conducted improperly, and fell so short of scientific standards that it was "completely irresponsible" to suggest that the results "constitute evidence of anything."

It said no proper records were kept of the samples, there had been no "chain of custody" guaranteeing their integrity, and no way of knowing whether the samples had been "spiked" with banned substances.

The report said WADA and the LNDD may have "behaved in ways that are completely inconsistent with the rules and regulations of international anti-doping control testing," and may also have been against the law. It accused WADA of putting pressure on the LNDD to summarize the results of the tests, and said both agencies violated rules of confidentiality by openly discussing them.

It said neither Armstrong nor any of the other riders that were tested retroactively could fairly be accused of violating anti-doping regulations based on the LNDD's examination.

WADA chief Dick Pound said he hadn't received the report yet but, based on what he had read in news accounts, was critical of Vrijman's findings.

"There was no interest in determining whether the samples Armstrong provided were positive or not," he told The Associated Press by telephone from Montreal. "We were afraid of that from the very beginning."

Pound reiterated his claim that the UCI had leaked the forms to a reporter from L'Equipe and was responsible for the doping samples being linked to Armstrong.

"Whether the samples were positive or not, I don't know how a Dutch lawyer with no expertise came to a conclusion that one of the leading laboratories in the world messed up on the analysis. To say Armstrong is totally exonerated seems strange," Pound said.

The report also said the UCI had not damaged Armstrong by releasing doping control forms to the French newspaper. Vrijman said a further investigation was needed regarding the leaking of the results.

He said a tribunal should be created to "provide a fair hearing" to the people and organizations suspected of misconduct and to decide on sanctions if warranted. Vrijman's statement did not specify what the alleged violations were.

"The report confirms my innocence, but also finds that Mr. Pound along with the French lab and the French ministry have ignored the rules and broken the law," Armstrong said. "They have also refused to cooperate with the investigation in an effort to conceal the full scope of their wrongdoing."

The UCI said it was upset with Vrijman for commenting on the report before all parties involved in the case were informed.

"Upon reception of the document, the UCI will study in details the content before publishing it in its whole," the UCI said in a statement.

In a separate statement, WADA expressed "grave concern and strong disappointment" over Vrijman's reported comments.

"Elementary courtesy and professionalism would have dictated that WADA should have been provided with a copy of the report before interviews were given to the media," the statement said.

"WADA continues to stress its concern that an investigation into the matter must consider all aspects — not limited to how the damaging information regarding athletes' urine samples became public, but also addressing the question of whether anti-doping rules were violated by athletes."

The anti-doping lab at Chatenay-Malabry has been accused of violating confidentiality regulations.

Mario Zorzoli, the doctor who gave copies of Armstrong's doping control forms to L'Equipe, was suspended by the UCI for one month earlier this year. He has since been reinstated.

Vrijman, who headed the Dutch anti-doping agency for 10 years and later defended athletes accused of doping, worked on the report with Adriaan van der Veen, a scientist with the Dutch Metrology Laboratory.

EPO, or erythropoietin, is a synthetic hormone that boosts the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.

Testing for EPO only began in 2001.

The full report was sent to the UCI, the LNDD, the French sports ministry, WADA and Armstrong's lawyer. The International Olympic Committee also had requested a copy.

The accusations against Armstrong raised questions about how frozen samples, routinely held for eight years, should be used.

AP Sports Writer Stephen Wilson in London contributed to this report.