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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
German TV suspends Tour coverage
ARD and ZDF production car
ARD and ZDF want a clarification of the Sinkewitz case
Two major German television channels - ARD and ZDF - have suspended their coverage of the Tour de France because of news of a positive doping test.

German cyclist Patrik Sinkewitz tested positive for testosterone and was suspended by his team, T-Mobile.

Sinkewitz is in hospital, having abandoned the race following a collision with a spectator.

He is the first cyclist to test positive in this year's Tour. Doping scandals have hit the event before.

"We decided to suspend the coverage of the Tour until the allegations are investigated," said ARD's programme director Guenter Struve.

"We take it very seriously because we had talks with the cycling teams and we were assured that everything was clean."

Patrick Sinkewitz undergoes a medical test
Sinkewitz's positive test is a reminder of past scandals
Sinkewitz faces a two-year suspension and a fine of one year's salary if his B-sample is confirmed positive like his A-sample.

Blow to credibility

The world of cycling is still smarting from last year's disqualification of the overall winner, American Floyd Landis, the first winner to be disqualified in the 104-year history of the race.

Sinkewitz's T-Mobile colleagues were furious over his test result.

Linus Gerdemann, who won a stage in the Alps and wore the overall leader's yellow jersey for one day, said "playing with your job like that is intolerable" and Marcus Burkhardt said he felt "betrayed".

T-Mobile has been severely hit during this Tour, losing, apart from Sinkewitz, Australian rider Michael Rogers, who fell in the Alps, and young Briton Mark Cavendish, withdrawn by his manager after eight stages.

The German team is no stranger to controversy, as five of its former cyclists have admitted taking drugs, among them top sprinter Erik Zabel.

Jan Ullrich
1997 Tour winner Jan Ullrich retired under a cloud of suspicion

Former 1997 Tour winner and T-Mobile star Jan Ullrich retired from racing earlier this year, with a cloud hanging over his entire career by doping allegations he strenuously denies.

The chief editor of ZDF, Nikolaus Brender, said his station could not go on covering a competition where doping suspicions were hanging over teams and cyclists.

"This is a warning to cycling and to all other sports", Mr Brender told journalists.

The Tour's owners, Amaury Sport Organisation, lost no time in leasing TV rights to other German broadcasters, Sat 1 and Pro Sieben.

"ZDF and ARD told us they were ceasing their coverage of the Tour de France and have de facto freed the TV rights on German territory," ASO spokesman Yann Le Moenner told Reuters.

"With the agreement of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) a replacement solution has been found. We have leased the TV rights to Sat 1 and Pro Sieben," he said. Both channels started their Tour coverage on Thursday afternoon, with the 11th stage, from Marseille to Montpellier.

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