Wed, Aug 01, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Tour de France doping scandal rolls on

WHEN WILL IT END?Iban Mayo became the third rider to test positive for EPO during this year's tour, while the Astana team announced that it had fired Alexander Vinokourov

NY Times News Service, New York

The cycling portion of the Tour de France may have ended for this year, but the doping scandal that plagued the 94th edition of the race continued on Monday.

The Spanish rider Iban Mayo, one of the sport's leading mountain specialists, has tested positive for the blood-boosting hormone erythropoietin (known as EPO), his team said in a statement.

Mayo, who finished 16th in this year's tour, was the third rider to test positive during this year's tour, and a positive result from an out-of-competition test was announced for another rider. Also, Michael Rasmussen was forced to withdraw from the tour while leading the race for lying about his training plans to anti-doping officials.

On Monday, the Astana team said that it fired its leader, Alexander Vinokourov. The move came after a follow-up test confirmed an initial finding that Vinokourov, who started the race as a favorite to win, had received an illicit blood transfusion during the tour.

Mayo's team, Saunier Duval-Prodir, said in a brief statement on its Web site that it immediately suspended Mayo after being told about the positive test by the International Cycling Union.

The team said that Mayo gave the sample on July 24, a rest day for the tour's riders. If the second test of the sample confirms Mayo's drug use, the Spanish team said, his contract will be terminated.

Mayo was the first rider to test positive for using EPO during the Tour de France since a test for it was developed in 2000.

The sports director of Saunier Duval-Prodir, Joxean Fernandez Matxin, told the news agency Europa Press that he was surprised by Mayo's test result.

"He has never been a rider under suspicion, in fact he is completely the opposite," Matxin said.

While the announcement apparently struck Matxin off guard, it was not the first positive result this year for Mayo. A sample taken during this year's Giro d'Italia after Mayo won a stage initially found that he had used testosterone. The cycling union, however, cleared him on June 14.

Before this year's Tour de France, he, like all starters, pledged to pay a penalty equal to his annual salary on top of any regular penalties if found guilty of doping.

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