Armstrong retires from cycling

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Austin, Feb 16 (AFP) Seven-time Tour de France winnerLance Armstrong today announced his retirement fromprofessional cycling at the age of 39.

"Today, I am announcing my retirement from professionalcycling in order to devote myself full-time to my family, tothe fight against cancer and to leading the foundation Iestablished before I won my first Tour de France," Armstrongsaid in a statement.

"My focus now is raising my five children, promoting themission of (his foundation) Livestrong, and growingentrepreneurial ventures with our great corporate partners inthe fight against cancer."

Armstrong initially retired from cycling after the 2005Tour de France, but returned to competition in 2009.

The American went on to finish third in the 2009 Tour deFrance and most recently placed 67th in the Tour Down Under inAustralia last month.

There were hopes that Armstrong would race in the May15-22 Tour of California, America''s biggest cycling race afterchanges in the event''s drug test programme opened the door forhim to do so.

Armstrong is the subject of a federal investigation inthe United States after allegations of doping levelled bydisgraced former teammate Floyd Landis, who was stripped ofhis 2006 Tour de France title for using illegal substances.

But Armstrong, who was diagnosed with testicular cancerat the age of 25, has never tested positive forperformance-enhancing drugs and has consistently deniedallegations of doping.

International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid dubbedArmstrong an "icon" in the sport.

"His contribution to cycling has been enormous, from boththe sporting point of view and his personality," said McQuaid,quoted by the BBC.

"All sports need global icons and he has become a globalicon for cycling. The sport of cycling has a lot to bethankful for because of Lance Armstrong." (AFP) SHN

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