Armstrong remains defiant

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COL DU TOURMALET, July 23 – Lance Armstrong said Thursday he is confident of clearing his name after hiring a criminal defence lawyer to represent him in a federal investigation into serious doping accusations."Obviously, you need some legal counsel on this… I wouldn’t read anything into it. I’m 100 percent confident that there will be a satisfactory resolution for me," Armstrong said at the end of the Tour de France’s 17th stage.

Seven-time race champion Armstrong is racing his final Tour campaign amid a series of damaging doping accusations levelled by former US Postal teammate Floyd Landis.

Landis claimed that he, Armstrong and other riders at the team — which existed from 1997-2004 and was part funded by public money — were involved in systematic doping practices.

Armstrong has vehemently denied the allegations, and has questioned the credibility of Landis, a man who denied for four years that he doped despite testing positive and losing his title after winning the 2006 race.

Landis’s claims have however led to the launching of a federal investigation and grand jury subpoenas have been issued to former US Postal riders as well as former yellow jersey champion Greg LeMond, an outspoken critic of Armstrong.

The probe is being led by US Food and Drug Administration special agent Jeff Novitzky, who was in charge of the BALCO investigation into the use and distribution of designer steroids and which led to a jail term for former sprint queen Marion Jones after she was found guilty of perjury.

Armstrong was reported on Wednesday to have hired Los Angeles-based criminal defence lawyer Bryan D. Daly, a former federal prosecutor and partner at the firm Sheppard Mullin Richter and Hampton.

Asked why he had hired the lawyer, Armstrong said: "I have nothing… again, this is the United States of America.

"You can’t prosecute somebody for something they didn’t do — normally. But along the way, you’ve got to protect yourself."

Armstrong went on to suggest that anybody who may be called to give testimony should do likewise.

"You know, I think anybody involved should have legal protection, and know their rights and know what’s truly best for them," he added.

"It’s safe to say that I will have representation here, just to be safe."

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