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Last Updated: Friday, 30 June 2006, 20:39 GMT 21:39 UK
Drug probe forces out Tour stars
Jan Ullrich (left) and Ivan Basso
Ullrich and Basso were both victory contenders in this year's race
Pre-race favourites Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich are out of the Tour de France after being named in a doping probe.

Ullrich, team-mate Oscar Sevilla and manager Rudy Pevenage have all been suspended by the T-Mobile team, while CSC rider Basso has been excluded.

Ullrich said he was "shocked" as he and Basso both denied any wrong-doing.

The Astana-Wurth team have also withdrawn after five riders were named in the Spanish probe; leader Alexander Vinokourov was not one of them.

"I feel I'm a victim, I am in absolute shock," Ullrich told German television.

"It's the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my career. I can only say again that I have nothing to do with this thing.

Chris Boardman
"I could cry going home in such good shape. I need a few days for myself and then I'll try to prove my innocence with the help of my lawyer. And I'll go on fighting."

CSC manager Bjarne Riis, who decided to suspend Basso from the team, said: "It is difficult for us to believe what is happening.

"He accepted my decision. He was very sad. He wanted to do well on the Tour."

Joseba Beloki was one of the Astana-Wuerth riders named in the investigation, the UCI (International Cycling Union) said on Friday.

Also on the list were his team-mates Sergio Paulinho of Portugal, Allan Davis of Australia and Spaniards Isidro Nozal and Alberto Contador.

Astana-Wuerth were asked earlier this week by Tour organisers not to take part in the race, but their appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport was upheld on Thursday.

However, because they decided to withdraw their five riders under investigation, the team were unable to take part as UCI rules stipulate that a team must field six riders.

AG2R rider Francisco Mancebo, fourth in last year's race, was another rider to be withdrawn by his team.

Following the first reports of the scandal emanating from Spain, T-Mobile management asked all its riders to sign written declarations stating that they were not involved in any way.

Team manager Olaf Ludwig said: "We talked to the riders several times and even have their declarations of innocence in written form.

"At first we had no reason to doubt the riders' statements, but that situation has now changed profoundly."


With Ullrich, Basso, Mancebo and Vinokourov, as well as last year's retired winner Lance Armstrong, all now absent, it means the Tour will start without the top five riders from 2005.

In all 13 have been evicted from the race after being named among a list of more than 50 riders involved in the probe.

A six-month doping investigation in Spain, nicknamed Operation Puerta, led to the arrests of five men, including Manolo Saiz, who recently resigned as boss of the Liberty-Seguros team, now renamed Astana-Wurth following a change in title sponsor.

Philippe Sudres, spokesman for Tour organisers Amaury Sport Organisation, said: "The Spanish Ministry of Sport handed the file to the cycling federation who passed it on to UCI and Tour organisers."

The current scandal is the biggest doping controversy to hit the sport since the Festina affair rocked the 1998 Tour.

Ullrich, the 1997 winner, had been among the favourites for this year's race.

In addition to his win in 1997, the German has been runner-up five times and was third last year.

CSC rider Basso, who recently won the Tour of Italy, has finished on the podium of the Tour for the last two years.

Italy's Lorenzo Bernucci and Germany's Stephan Schreck will now replace Ullrich and Sevilla in the T-Mobile team.

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