Cyclist Beltran out of Tour over doping

July 12th, 2008 - 1:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Aurillac (France), July 12 (DPA) Cyclist Manuel Beltran was kicked out of the Tour de France by his Liquigas team after failing a doping test, just hours after fellow-Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez’s won a turbulent seventh stage of the race. Beltran tested positive for the blood booster EPO, the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) said Friday, confirming a report from French sports daily L’Equipe.

A Liquigas spokesman said that the 37-year-old has been suspended from the race.

Police raided the Liquigas team hotel near the day’s stage finish in Aurillac, and according to L’Equipe’s website, Beltran was led away for questioning by police because doping is a criminal offence in France.

L’Equipe said that Beltran failed the test carried out after the first stage last Saturday in which he finished 25th. It appears to have been a target test.

The AFLD boss Pierre Bordry also confirmed a report Friday from the Le Monde newspaper that more than a dozen riders have submitted “abnormal” blood levels at pre-race tests carried out last week.

The tests carried out by AFLD July 3 and 4 revealed levels of hematocrit or haemoglobin the volume of red blood cells which can hint at EPO doping.

The Tour has been plagued by doping in recent years.

Last year, Kazakh star Alexandre Vinokourov was the most prominent athlete caught cheating, and Dane Michael Rasmussen was kicked out in leading position after lying about his whereabouts in connection with drug tests.

The 2006 winner Floyd Landis was stripped of his title after testing positive for steroids. This year’s edition comes 10 years after the Festina team was kicked out over organised doping.

In the day’s stage marked by numerous crashes, the 24-year-old Sanchez burst out of a small pack of riders with about four kilometres to go and maintained a lead until the finish to claim his first-ever Tour stage victory.

Former race leader Stefan Schumacher of Germany led a group of riders who finished six seconds behind the winner, with Italian Filippo Pozzato coming in third place.

Sanchez pointed at the sky as he crossed the finish line, and he explained after the race that this was in tribute to an elder brother who passed away.

It was the second victory on this year’s Tour for a Spanish rider and the second by a rider for the Spanish Caisse d’Epargne team, who had two other riders finish in the top 10 on Friday.

Luxembourg’s Kim Kirchen finished fourth and retained his lead in the overall standings, six seconds ahead of Australia’s Cadel Evans, with Schumacher in third place, 16 seconds adrift.

Saturday’s eighth stage will take the riders out of the Massif Centrale and may end in a mass sprint in the city of Toulouse. The Tour ends July 27 in Paris.

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