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Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Officials: Retests come back clean

Associated Press

PARIS -- French anti-doping authorities said the retests of blood samples from 17 riders at the 2008 Tour de France have all come back clean.

Pierre Bordry, head of the anti-doping agency known as AFLD, "rejoiced" on Wednesday that the tests all came back negative. He declined to identify the cyclists involved.

Six riders were caught doping at the 2008 Tour, four for CERA, an advanced form of blood-booster EPO. They included third-place finisher Bernhard Kohl of Austria, Italy's Leonardo Piepoli and Riccardo Ricco and Stefan Schumacher of Germany. Combined, they won five of the 21 stages.

Asked about the lack of positive tests at this year's Tour, Bordry said it was unexpected and reiterated his earlier criticism of cycling's governing body for not acting in accordance with World Anti-Doping Agency rules.

"I'm certainly surprised. But being surprised means nothing if we don't have proof of what we're saying," Bordry said. "What's surprising is that the UCI doesn't run its controls in line with the rules. That permits things, but we can't show it because the controls were negative. We can have questions, but we can't go beyond that."

Earlier this week, the AFLD released a report concluding that teams -- including Astana containing Tour winner Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong -- had received advance notice of drug tests, and that some blood and urine samples were not handled correctly by UCI inspectors.

The UCI responded by saying it "scrupulously respects the obligations imposed by the World Anti-Doping Code. The equal treatment of teams and riders is strictly guaranteed, the conditions of testing meet the existing standards and the rules for conserving samples are carefully observed."

The two organizations have had a tense relationship in recent years, with the AFLD accusing the UCI of not taking a tough enough stance against doping.

While there were no positive tests at this year's Tour, authorities did seize drugs that the French agency's scientific adviser said raised questions.

The drugs -- which include treatments for diabetes, high blood pressure and convulsions suffered by manic-depressives -- are not banned but are "incongruous" in top-level athletes, said Professor Michel Rieu.

"It seems completely abnormal that in certain teams we find powerful drugs to treat high blood pressure. Another product was a relatively recent treatment for diabetes. I don't see why you'd have a diabetic race in the Tour de France," Rieu said.

He declined to say which teams the substances had been taken from, saying that it was part of a judicial investigation.