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After Doping Inquiry Opened, Armstrong Banned From French Triathlon



PARIS - As the cycling world gets ready for the 2012 Tour de France, the man who dominated the competition for years is once again accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs, and risks losing all of his record seven titles.

Lance Armstrong has confirmed that he is under investigation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). As an immediate result of the inquiry, organizers of the Ironman triathlon in Nice confirmed on Thursday that the legendary Tour de France champion will be banned from the race. "The rules governing the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) state that no athletes under investigation can participate in the event," a spokesperson was quoted as saying by Le Monde. The athlete turned to the swimming/cycling/running sport following his retirement from cycling.

Armstrong, whose career has been dogged by still unproven allegations of doping, was quick to react to the fresh accusations. In a statement on his website, he attacked the agency's "malice, its methods, its star-chamber practices." The athlete, who won the Tour de France back to back from 1999 to 2005, wrote: "I have never doped and, unlike many of my accusers, I have competed as an endurance athlete for 25 years with no spike in performance, passed more than 500 drug tests and never failed one." A direct jab at former teammates Floyd Landis or Tyler Hamilton who accused him of doping.

Doping allegations have repeatedly targeted Armstrong since his first Tour victory. These allegations often came from the French media, triggering a very tense relationship between Armstrong and the French public. The website of French sports daily L'Equipe was inundated with comments, mostly critical of the American cyclist.

But most recently it was a US Federal government inquiry headed by the Food and Drug Agency that targeted him. Though it was abandoned in February, the USADA chose to go ahead with its own investigation. "These are the very same charges and the same witnesses that the Justice Department chose not to pursue after a two-year investigation. These charges are baseless, motivated by spite and advanced through testimony bought and paid for by promises of anonymity and immunity," the athlete wrote.

As a result of the USADA inquiry, the 40-year-old is suspended from all competitions. If convicted, he could face a lifetime ban from cycling and be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.

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An End To Venezuela Sanctions? The Lula Factor In Biden's Democratization Gamble

The Biden administration's exploration to lift sanctions on Venezuela, hoping to gently push its regime back on the path of democracy, might have taken its cue from Brazilian President Lula's calls to stop demonizing Venezuela.

Photo of a man driving a motorbike past a wall with a mural depicting former President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, Venezuela

Driving past a Chavez mural in Caracas, Venezuela

Leopoldo Villar Borda


BOGOTÁ — Reports last month that U.S. President Joe Biden's apparent decision to unblock billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets, frozen since 2015 as part of the United States' sanctions on the Venezuelan regime, could be the first of many pieces to fall in a domino effect that could help end the decades-long Venezuelan deadlock.

It may move the next piece — the renewal of conversations in Mexico between the Venezuelan government and opposition — before pushing over other obstacles to elections due in 2024 and to Venezuela's return into the community of American states.

I don't think I'm being naïve in anticipating developments that would lead to a new narrative around Venezuela, very different to the one criticized by Brazil's president, Lula da Silva. He told a regional summit in Brasilia in June that there were prejudices about Venezuela — and I dare say he wasn't entirely wrong, based on the things I hear from a Venezuelan friend who lives in Bogotá but travels frequently home.

My friend insists his country's recent history is not quite as depicted in the foreign press. The price of basic goods found in a food market are much the same as those in Bogotá, he says.

He goes to the theater when he visits Caracas, eats in restaurants and strolls in parks and squares. There are new building works, he says. He uses the Caracas metro and insists its trains and stations are clean — showing me pictures on his cellphone to prove it.

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