Just when the Tour de France was getting interesting, doping allegations have surfaced again.
Germany's cycling federation said on Wednesday that preliminary results from a surprise anti-doping test on cyclist Patrik Sinkewitz during a training session last month turned up high levels of testosterone.
The case of the T-Mobile team member, who crashed into a spectator on Sunday and withdrew from the Tour de France, prompted German public broadcasters to end their race coverage and threatened to overshadow a race that had reached its midpoint on Wednesday.
Cedric Vasseur became the first French rider to win a stage this year with a sprint at the finish of Wednesday's 229.5km 10th stage from Tallard to Marseille under a searing sun.
Michael Rasmussen retained the overall leader's yellow jersey, finishing safely in 30th place among his top rivals. The Dane is two minutes, 35 seconds ahead of second-placed Alejandro Valverde of Spain, and 2 minutes, 39 seconds in front of fellow Spaniard Iban Mayo in third.
The results of Sinkewitz's "A" sample, announced in Germany shortly before the stage began, quickly spread through the field.
"The entire team was stunned," T-Mobile sporting manager Bob Stapleton said. "It was quite a shock to everybody, but ... they're fighters, they came here to compete."
While the results took two weeks to come to light, Sinkewitz and four teammates were tested June 8 during a training run in the Pyrenees mountains -- where the race heads next week.
"It's not possible. I know nothing about it," Sinkewitz told the German news agency DPA. "I am about to have surgery. I can't deal with it now."
T-Mobile said Sinkewitz was undergoing surgery on his jaw at a Hamburg, Germany clinic, a consequence of Sunday's crash.
The revelation was a blow for T-Mobile, which has enacted some of the toughest anti-doping measures in the sport in response to doping controversies. Jan Ullrich, a former team leader who won the Tour in 1997, retired this year after he was mentioned in the Spanish anti-doping probe known as "Operation Puerto."
The team has been trying to rebuild among young riders. Sinkewitz is 26.
T-Mobile temporarily suspended Sinkewitz. Two German public television stations that had been broadcasting the Tour responded by saying they were dropping their coverage "until further notice."
Patrice Clerc, the president of Tour organizer Amaury Sports Organisation, expressed "stupefaction" at the revelations and called it "paradoxical" that the German broadcasters had halted their coverage.
He said riders "are playing Russian roulette, in a way, when they are tempted to cheat."
Wednesday's stage didn't alter the standings among the remaining contenders, many of who were recovering from three rides in the Alps. Two time trials and three stages in the Pyrenees await before the July 29 finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
The next major change among the leaders is likely to come in tomorrow's 13th stage -- a 54km time trial in Albi. Rasmussen has admitted he's not strong in such races against the clock.
Among the remaining contenders, Cadel Evans of Australia is fourth, 2 minutes, 41 seconds back; Frenchman Christophe Moreau sits sixth, 3 minutes, 18 seconds behind; Carlos Sastre of Spain trails by 3 minutes, 39 seconds in seventh; and American Levi Leipheimer is ninth, 3 minutes, 53 seconds off the leader's pace.
Germany's Andreas Kloeden, one of the world's best long time-trial specialists who was runner-up to Lance Armstrong in 2004, is 3 minutes, 50 seconds back, and his Astana teammate Alexandre Vinokourov is 8 minutes, 5 seconds behind.
Vasseur narrowly outsprinted four other cyclists in a breakaway group to cross in 5 hours, 20 minutes, 24 seconds. It was his first win at cycling's biggest race since 1997.
The main favorites finished in a pack that finished 10 minutes 36 seconds behind Vasseur, whom they gladly let race ahead because he is still 36 minutes, 5 seconds behind the leader in the overall standings.
Vasseur, who turns 37 in August, says this year will be his last in the sport.
"I think I can leave cycling with my head held high," he said. "I am happy to offer France the first win on the Tour."
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