The International Cycling Union have given the green light for Lance Armstrong to make his professional comeback at the Tour Down Under in January.
There had been fears the seven-time Tour de France winner would be barred from racing in Australia due to a rule which stipulates returning riders must inform the UCI of their intentions six months in advance of their comeback in order to undertake out-of-competition drug tests.
Under the UCI’s anti-doping regulations, Armstrong would not be allowed to return to action before February 1, 2009, meaning he would miss the start of the January 20-25 Tour Down Under by just over a week.
However, the UCI have made an exception to this rule in order for the American to compete in the first event of the 2009 ProTour.
“This decision has been made after a careful assessment of the situation, taking into account both the applicable regulations and the imperatives of the fight against doping which is the UCI’s number one priority,” read a statement on the UCI’s official website, www.uci.ch.
“The UCI has taken into account the progress made in its anti-doping programme since 2004. As a result of the improvements implemented ... riders are now subject to a much-reinforced system of monitoring compared to that of the past.
“The UCI can confirm that Lance Armstrong has and will be the subject of very strict monitoring throughout the period running up to his return to the peloton.”
The 37-year-old Armstrong, who retired in 2005, will resume his road-racing career primarily to raise awareness of cancer issues through his ’Livestrong’ programme and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
He will be seeking an entry into the 2009 Tour de France as a member of the Astana team, for whom he will race in at least five events next year, starting in Australia.