Lance Armstrong leads Beirut bike tour to help blast victims

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BEIRUT — Former American professional cyclist Lance Armstrong led a bike tour around Beirut on Sunday to raise awareness and funds for organizations helping residents affected by a massive explosion that struck the Lebanese capital in August.

Dozens of cyclists took part in the “Bike for Beirut” tour as Lebanon marked two months since the blast at Beirut’s port, where some 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrates were stored for six years before exploding on Aug. 4. It was one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever recorded.

“Today we’re starting here, I guess not very far from the actual explosion site,” Armstrong said outside the port. He added that the bike tour aimed to “try to bring some awareness to this community, to the people affected.”

The blast killed 193, wounded about 6,500 and caused billions of dollars in damage. It decimated the port facility and thousands of apartments in the city. It also came as Lebanon is grappling with its worst economic and financial crisis in decades, made worse by the spread of the coronavirus.

The group of cyclists later entered the port and passed close to the huge crater where, before the explosion, the ammonium nitrates were stored. They then continued the tour around Beirut.

Among the four organizations that the tour is collecting money for are the Lebanese Red Cross and the charity group Offrjoie.

Armstrong built a world-wide following during his professional career winning races, including the the Tour de France seven times, and fighting cancer.

However, his reputation crumbled abruptly several years ago following revelations he used performance-enhancing drugs. Armstrong had already retired, but the confession shattered the legacy of one of the most popular sports figures in the world.

Later Sunday, hundreds of people gathered near the port to mark the blast’s two-month anniversary. At 6:07 p.m., the time when the explosion tore through the city, they released scores of white balloons with victim’s names on them.

Some victims’ relatives briefly blocked the main highway that passes near the port, demanding that the results of the investigation be made public.

More than two dozen people, mostly port and customs officials, have been detained so far. The judge in charge of the investigation has questioned top security officials, former Cabinet ministers and port employees.

CAS upholds Nairo Quintana DQ from Tour de France for opioid use

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland – The disqualification of two-time Tour de France runner-up Nairo Quintana from his sixth place in the 2022 race for misuse of an opioid was confirmed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

CAS said its judges dismissed Quintana’s appeal and agreed with the International Cycling Union that the case was a medical matter rather than a doping rules violation. He will not be banned.

The court said the judges ruled “the UCI’s in-competition ban on tramadol was for medical rather than doping reasons and was therefore within the UCI’s power and jurisdiction.”

Traces of the synthetic painkiller tramadol were found in two dried blood spot samples taken from the Colombian racer five days apart in July, the UCI previously said.

Quintana’s case is among the first to rely on the dried blood spot (DBS) method of collecting samples which the World Anti-Doping Agency approved last year.

Tramadol was banned in 2019 from use at cycling races because of potential side effects. They include the risk of addiction, dizziness, drowsiness and loss of attention.

Quintana finished second in the Tour de France in 2013 and 2015, won both times by Chris Froome. He won the 2014 Giro d’Italia.

Filippo Ganna breaks cycling’s hour world record

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GRENCHEN, Switzerland — Time trial specialist Filippo Ganna broke cycling’s hour record when he covered 56.792 kilometers in 60 minutes.

The Italian extended the record by more than 1.2 kilometers, the biggest jump in seven years.

Asked to describe the pain of the last five minutes, he said, “I lost energy to try to go for 57, but nothing (in the legs).”

He said he was open to another attempt at a different time of the season, when he was fresher.

Ganna took the record from British teammate Dan Bigham, who made his mark at the same Swiss velodrome on Aug. 19.