Lance Armstrong, branded a drug cheat and banned from cycling by the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), narrowly escaped a police raid on his hotel during the 2005 Tour de France because he was being "protected in France", a French lawyer has claimed.
US cycling icon and cancer survivor Armstrong is set to be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after he gave up the right to fight serious doping claims by the USADA at an independent hearing.
A day after a report in Le Monde newspaper claimed Armstrong had been forewarned of doping controls -- theoretically allowing the American to circumvent potential positive tests -- French lawyer Thibault de Montbrial said evidence suggested he had also benefited from top level protection in France.
According to De Montbrial, a hotel at which Armstrong and his team were staying during the race's second rest day in Pau in 2005 was set to be raided by police looking for evidence of elaborate doping substances and methods, only for the operation to be aborted at the last minute.
De Montbrial, a lawyer involved in investigating the fallout from the Festina affair which saw the 1998 Tour de France descend into farce, told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper: "I know that during the Tour de France in 2005, on the second rest day at Pau, the team of Lance Armstrong came within an inch of having its hotel searched.
"A French investigation detail came from Paris to carry out a raid. But I have it on good authority that around five in the afternoon, when they were in front of the hotel, the investigators were told to abort. The scheduled operation was called off at the last minute.
"I do not know who gave the order... But I do know the investigators were furious at having to turn on their heels. The evidence (suggests) Lance Armstrong was indeed protected in France," the lawyer asserted.
Lance’s foundation sees donation spike
Austin: The Lance Armstrong Foundation said on Friday that donations rose sharply as fans of the cancer nonprofit pledged support, but the organization faces long-term questions about its future now that its cycling champion founder was stripped of a record seven Tour de France titles.
At the foundation's light-filled headquarters in the Texas capital, where Armstrong lives, a receptionist took a call from a well-wisher, a scene that Chief Executive Doug Ulman said was repeated throughout the day in an outpouring of calls, emails and social media messages, many from cancer survivors touched by the foundation's work. "It's people offering to help in any way they can, people committing to additional donations, people saying, 'I'm going to go buy a Livestrong shirt to show my support,'" Ulman said.