Lance Armstrong’s participation in the Tour Down Under is a “world coup” and can create a lasting legacy for cycling in Australia, according to South Australia premier Mike Rann.
The International Cycling Union gave the green light for Armstrong to make his professional comeback yesterday.
There had been fears that the seven-time Tour de France winner would be barred from racing in Adelaide 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.
“We commend and support the UCI on their stringent approach to the rules of the sport and the due diligence with which they have resolved the issues around Lance Armstrong’s eligibility to compete at the 2009 Tour Down Under,” Rann said.
“We are thrilled that this issue has been resolved and Lance Armstrong will be coming to South Australia as planned.”
Rann is now relishing the increased profile Armstrong’s participation will bring and hopes Australia can reap the benefits.
“We were quick off the mark and worked hard to secure Lance Armstrong’s involvement,” he added.
“When his participation was challenged we did not throw in the towel. We negotiated to resolve the issue.
“Lance Armstrong’s decision to make his comeback to world cycling at the Tour Down Under is a world coup.
“His appearance will leave a lasting legacy for the sport in Australia, encouraging more Australians to get on a bike and inspiring young Australians to be the champions of tomorrow.”