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Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Updated: July 19, 7:55 AM ET
Sinkewitz tested positive for elevated testosterone levels

Associated Press

FRANKFURT, Germany -- T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz tested positive for high levels of testosterone before the Tour de France, but competed in the race until a crash forced him to drop out.

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Sinkewitz was tested June 8, a month before the start of the Tour, and the A sample came back positive, the German cycling federation said Wednesday.

Sinkewitz participated in the Tour, which began in London on July 7, but dropped out after crashing into a spectator after stage 8 on Sunday.

He has been provisionally suspended by his team, T-Mobile spokesman Stefan Wagner said.

Sinkewitz has five days to decide whether to request a B sample test. If that also comes back positive, he faces a possible ban. He also would be fired by his team and have to pay back his annual salary.

German TV ends coverage

BERLIN -- In response to the turmoil created by German rider Patrik Sinkewitz's positive doping test, state TV on Wednesday shelved its coverage of the Tour de France.

State broadcasters ARD and ZDF said they were halting coverage of cycling's most prestigious race, watched by more than a million Germans, until the Sinkewitz case is resolved.

The latest development follows a string of doping confessions by and allegations against riders associated with T-Mobile and its predecessor Team Telekom.

"We cannot wait until the Tour is over," ZDF editor Nikolaus Brender said. "There is a constant suspicion of doping."

ARD used to be one of Telekom's sponsors and both it and ZDF were planning a total of about 90 hours of coverage of this year's Tour, which ends July 29.

Race organizers Amaury Sport Organisation criticized the decision of the German television companies, which are the second biggest source of income for ASO as far as television rights are concerned.

"This decision is paradoxical as it results in a sanction against the Tour de France, which shows its will to fight against doping," ASO chairman Patrice Clerc said in Marseille, where the 10th stage finished on Wednesday.

"Even if it is difficult to admit that a rider has tested positive, do we have to complain about the fact that we continue to track down the cheats?

"Maybe German TV expects us not to track them down."

-- Reuters

"It's not possible. I know nothing about it," Sinkewitz told the German news agency DPA from a Hamburg clinic. "I am about to have surgery. I can't deal with it now."

The rider is being treated for facial injuries, including a broken nose, and other injuries. T-Mobile company spokesman Christian Frommert said Sinkewitz was having surgery on his jaw.

Sinkewitz was tested with four other Telekom riders during a training camp in the Pyrenees, Wagner said. One was Linus Gerdemann, who won a stage at the Tour.

Germany's National Anti-Doping Agency said it usually takes up to four weeks for a lab to examine a sample and that the result of Sinkewitz's test became known Monday. The agency then informed the German cycling federation.

Gerdemann, considered one of Germany's top cycling hopes along with Sinkewitz, said the case showed that the controls were getting better.

"I think the possibility to dope is getting smaller and smaller," Gerdemann said. "It's a good sign that the system is starting to work ... the guys that try to dope, they have no chance any more."

Last year, Sinkewitz was forced by his team to end his cooperation with Michele Ferrari, a doctor cleared by an Italian appeals court of distributing doping products to athletes.

T-Mobile company spokesman Christian Frommert would not rule out that the telecommunications giant could decide to stop sponsoring the team.

"We'll sit down after the Tour and calmly analyze the situation," he told ARD. "It's a hard blow. We'll have to think about sponsoring now. We are angered, disappointed, shocked."

Sinkewitz signed the International Cycling Union's new anti-doping charter that commits riders to promise that they are not involved in doping and agree to pay a year's salary on top of a two-year ban if caught doping.

"If he is [positive after the B sample], he's ultimately sanctioned and he gets a ban and he'll have to face the music as far as the charter is concerned," UCI president Pat McQuaid said.

Bob Stapleton, T-Mobile team manager, said Sinkewitz would be fired if the result is confirmed positive.

While elevated testosterone levels do not necessarily indicate doping, Sinkewitz was reportedly six times over the limit.

TV stations ZDF and ARD, two public channels which have been broadcasting the Tour, said they were dropping their coverage "until further notice."

Sinkewitz's case is the latest to shake German cycling in the past few months.

Several former riders for Telekom, now renamed T-Mobile, admitted using performance-enhancing drugs in the 1990s, including Bjarne Riis, a Dane who won the Tour de France in 1996.

Jan Ullrich, who won the 1997 Tour, has denied any wrongdoing but retired in February after being implicated in the Spanish blood-doping scandal known as Operation Puerto.

Just before the start of this year's Tour, Joerg Jaksche became the first rider to admit using blood doping prepared by a Spanish doctor. Jaksche was suspended by his team -- Tinkoff Credit Systems -- in May.

T-Mobile's current anti-doping program is considered among the most rigorous in cycling.

The sports' anti-doping director, Anne Gripper of the UCI, told The Associated Press in June that the "very robust" anti-drug programs implemented by T-Mobile and the Danish CSC team mean "it would be almost impossible for the riders in those teams to even consider any form of doping."

Frommert said the latest case, if confirmed, was a "clear setback" in the team's anti-doping policy.

"We'll have to look where we made mistakes. We'll have to be self-critical," he said.

"It's very hard for us because he is one of the young riders we were building our future on," he said. "This is very disappointing for German cycling."