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Sunday, 25 June, 2000, 13:20 GMT 14:20 UK
Cyclists warned over big freeze
1998 sitdown protests
The 1998 Tour was almost destroyed by scandal
Cyclists in this year's Tour de France will have urine samples frozen for future drug testing.

A test for the banned hormone EPO has failed to be approved in time for the race, which starts next Saturday.

But cycling's governing body, the UCI, says samples will be conserved for testing at a later date.


I think it will contribute towards relaxing the atmosphere - we feel it is putrid, that the riders mistrust each other, that the press do not trust the riders and vice versa
Tour director Jean Marie Leblanc

Last week two members of a panel of three experts said more analysis was needed before the proposed urine test could be approved.

The test has been developed by a French laboratory to combat the substance which has damaged the sport's credibility in recent years.

The 1998 Tour was severely disrupted by police raids after flasks of EPO were discovered in a care owned by cycling team Festina.

Until now the hormone was not possible to detect since it occurs naturally in the body.
Drug testing
Until now it has been impossible to test for EPO

But the scientists behind the new test say sugar in the urine changes character after using EPO, and testing for this can weed out the cheats.

In a statement the UCI said that it expected a method for detecting the banned substance EPO "could finally be validated in the coming months".

It warned that any cyclist found retrospectively to have used EPO at this Tour, would suffer from the "rules and sanctions" already in place.

The governing body said the aim was to clean up the sport.

"(We want) to ensure (the Tour) is held in the utmost sporting and serene (conditions)," said the statement.

And their announcement was welcomed by Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc.

"The advantages outweigh the inconveniences.
JM Leblanc
Tour chief Jean-Marie Leblanc welcomed the move

"The inconvenience is that we could have stage winners or even riders on the podium who would be sanctioned at an ulterior date," he told the sports daily L'Equipe.

"But I think it will contribute towards relaxing the atmosphere. We feel it is putrid, that the riders mistrust each other, that the press do not trust the riders and vice versa."

French cycling federation president Daniel Baal agreed.

"It's the optimum solution. As far as disuasion goes we can believe we'll get the same conditions as if the results were known on the Tour."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Sonia McLoughlin reports from France
The tour is making big changes to stop the doping controversy repeating itself
See also:

21 Jul 99 | Tour de France
03 Jul 99 | Tour de France
21 Oct 99 | Tour de France
18 Aug 99 | Tour de France
22 Jun 00 | Tour de France
Links to more Tour de France stories are at the foot of the page.


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