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Armstrong faces drug allegations

CHICAGO — CHICAGO - Five-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is expected to answer fresh allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs when he meets reporters today in the Washington area.

A book scheduled for release in Europe this week includes accusations that Armstrong, despite continuing denials, was no stranger to the drug culture that has clouded international cycling.

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Excerpts from L.A. Confidential: The Secrets of Lance Armstrong were published Sunday in the French magazine L'Express. Among the allegations: a former aide to the U.S. Postal Service team applied makeup to conceal bruises and needle marks on Armstrong's arms, that he asked her to dispose of used syringes, and that he sent her from France to Spain to pick up "unspecified medication."

Today was to have been a triumphant one for Armstrong, who took an overnight flight from Europe for the announcement that his team's near-term financial future is secure.

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Discovery Communications Inc., the Silver Spring-based company whose brands include The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and TLC, will take over as his team's title sponsor at the end of this year, replacing the U.S. Postal Service.

Discovery backed WUSA, the defunct women's soccer league, for the four-plus years of its existence. The company fits the profile Armstrong and his camp had described as ideal: a U.S.-based firm with extensive international operations.

But on a good-news, bad-news day less than three weeks before Armstrong is to begin his quest for a record-breaking sixth Tour victory, the Texan and testicular cancer survivor has to deal with a potentially major distraction.

Armstrong has retained a London law firm that has begun proceedings to block publication of the book and to sue authors David Walsh and Pierre Ballester, The Sunday Times and L'Express for libel.

A legal notice posted on Armstrong's Web site and distributed to reporters yesterday stated that "Lance Armstrong has reacted with concern and dismay at false allegations ... he utterly denies ever having taken any performance-enhancing drugs."

Walsh, a columnist for The Sunday Times, and Ballester, a former staff writer for the French sports daily L'Equipe, have long expressed skepticism about Armstrong's accomplishments. Armstrong has dismissed their previous reporting as biased.

The book's strongest accusations are based on interviews with former U.S. Postal cycling team soigneur Emma O'Reilly, who is Irish. Soigneur - literally translated, "one who takes care of" - is the French term for staff members who give riders massages and do odd jobs.

Among O'Reilly's assertions is that the team staff postdated a prescription for a cortisone cream to explain the presence of a banned substance in Armstrong's system during the 1999 Tour. O'Reilly also said Armstrong asked her to apply makeup to his arms to conceal bruising and needle marks and had her dispose of used syringes. O'Reilly said she did not know - and never asked - what drugs she was carrying when Armstrong allegedly sent her from France to Spain to pick up the "unspecified medication."

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The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.


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