The head of the Tour de France is hailing a new lab test for
exposing three stage winners in the 2008 race for cheating with an
advanced form of the blood booster EPO.
"It's very good. It allows us to confound the cheaters," Christian Prudhomme said on Tuesday. "What's being done at the Tour de France has never existed in the world of sport, in no competition."
German rider Stefan Schumacher, and Italians Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo Piepoli tested positive for CERA, the French Anti-Doping Agency confirmed on Tuesday.
Between them, the trio won five of the Tour's 21 stages this year. The revelations about Schumacher were new - Piepoli and Ricco were sent home during the race under a doping cloud.
Germany's cycling federation said on Tuesday it would seek a maximum
two-year ban against Schumacher. He won both the time trials in the
Tour and held the overall lead for two stages. He was suspended on
Monday by his Gerolsteiner team.
Cheating riders cannot retain stage victories
Gerolsteiner said blood samples taken on July 3, before the tour,
and July 15 tested positive for CERA. Schumacher's lawyer Michael Lehner said he had not received the documents yet.
Tour boss Prudhomme said it took more than two months for the
positive tests to emerge because while blood samples were taken of the
riders during the race, testing them for CERA was not yet authorised.
"People in the street ask me: 'How did that come out so late?"'
Prudhomme said. "In July, the process wasn't legitimate at the time ...
These tests are of a new type."
Prudhomme said he doesn't believe the riders should be able to
retain their stage victories - though any official decision would have
to come from the French cycling federation.
"It's clear that those who have cheated, we're not going to consider
that they won," he said. "We are not the ones who do the rankings, but
I can't see how they can stay."
The French anti-doping agency was still working on further samples
for riders from the Tour. "There are tests ongoing. I don't know if they will be positive or negative," agency head Pierre Bordry said. "We are only looking for CERA, not the rest."
Cycling's showcase event was rocked by doping scandals for a third
Spanish riders Moises Duenas Nevado and Manuel Beltran also tested
positive for EPO, while Dmitriy Fofonov of Kazakhstan tested for a
banned stimulant. – (Sapa, October 2008)
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