Schleck doping saga continues
Tour de France star under suspicion as Tour chief hails new drugs lab.
Last Modified: 08 Oct 2008 09:19 GMT

Schleck leads the pack [GALLO/GETTY]
An investigation into Tour de France star Frank Schleck has been expanded by the Luxembourg anti-doping agency.

Schleck was already provisionally suspended by his Danish team after admitting he transferred money to a Swiss bank account held by a Spanish doctor at the centre of a major doping scandal.

The Luxembourg cyclist gave evidence about the transfer to his national anti-doping agency (ALAD) last week and said he never doped.

'Insufficient' explanation

But the Luxembourg agency ruled the statements were insufficient to declare him innocent, and it said it will widen the probe.

"It has been decided to carry out an additional investigation at different levels," the ALAD said in a statement, without elaborating how long the additional investigation will take.

Schleck became the Grand Duchy's sports hero of the year when he finished sixth in the tour and wore the yellow jersey for three days.

His CSC Saxo Bank team provisionally suspended him until the outcome of the investigation.

Dubious transfer

It acknowledges Schleck told them he transferred almost $9,500 to the account of Eufemiano Fuentes in March 2006 "to receive training advice by experts who presumably worked with some of the biggest names in the sport."

Fuentes was at the heart of Operation Puerto, cycling's biggest-ever doping investigation, which was set off by Spanish civil guard raids at clinics in Madrid and Zaragoza in May 2006 that turned up steroids, hormones and the endurance-boosting substance EPO, nearly 100 bags of frozen blood, and equipment for treating blood.

Over 50 cyclists, including 2007 Tour de France champion Alberto Contador, 2006 Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso and 1997 Tour champion Jan Ullrich, were reportedly linked to the scandal.

Schleck admitted making "a serious blunder" and deeply regretted the contact with "these people," the team said.

Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme is after the cheaters [GALLO/GETTY]
New Tour testing

The head of the Tour de France is hailing a new lab test for exposing three stage winners in the 2008 race for cheating with an advanced form of the blood booster EPO.

"It's very good. It allows us to confound the cheaters," Christian Prudhomme said.

"What's being done at the Tour de France has never existed in the world of sport, in no competition."

Positive tests

German rider Stefan Schumacher, and Italians Riccardo Ricco and Leonardo
Piepoli tested positive for CERA, the French Anti-Doping Agency confirmed.

Between them, the trio won five of the Tour's 21 stages this year.

The revelations about Schumacher were new, Piepoli and Ricco were sent home during the race under a doping cloud.

Germany's cycling federation said it would seek a maximum two-year ban against Schumacher.

He won both the time trials in the Tour and held the overall lead for two stages.

Stefan Schumacher in happier times [GALLO/GETTY]
Gerolsteiner suspension

He was suspended on Monday by his Gerolsteiner team.

Gerolsteiner said blood samples taken on July 3, before the tour, and July 15 tested positive for CERA.

Schumacher's lawyer Michael Lehner said he had not received the documents yet.

Tour boss Prudhomme said it took more than two months for the positive tests to emerge because while blood samples were taken of the riders during the race, testing them for CERA was not yet authorised.

"People in the street ask me: 'How did that come out so late?'" Prudhomme said.

"In July, the process wasn't legitimate at the time ... These tests are of a new type."

Tough talking

Prudhomme said he doesn't believe the riders should be able to retain their stage victories, though any official decision would have to come from the French cycling federation.

"It's clear that those who have cheated, we're not going to consider that they won," he said.

"We are not the ones who do the rankings, but I can't see how they can stay."

The French anti-doping agency was still working on further samples for riders from the Tour.

Ongoing tests

"There are tests ongoing.

"I don't know if they will be positive or negative," agency head Pierre Bordry said.

"We are only looking for CERA, not the rest."

Cycling's showcase event was rocked by doping scandals for a third successive year.

Spanish riders Moises Duenas Nevado and Manuel Beltran also tested positive for EPO, while Dmitriy Fofonov of Kazakhstan tested for a banned stimulant.

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