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Saturday, July 17, 1999 Published at 15:45 GMT 16:45 UK

World: Europe

New drugs controversy hits Tour

The Tour de France cycle race has again become embroiled in controversy following the withdrawal of a rider who'd campaigned against the use of illicit drugs.

Reports say the reason why the Frenchman, Christophe Bassons, has pulled out of the race with only eight days to go is that he'd come under intense pressure from fellow riders to stay quiet.

One of his critics is said to have been the Tour leader -- the American, Lance Armstrong -- whose performance so far, after recovery from cancer, has astounded many commentators.

The President of the International Cycling Union, Hein Verbruggen, has insisted that the sport's efforts to clean up its image, following the doping scandals which marred last year's race, are having an effect.

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