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Longo lifts morale with Rhone-Alpes win

LYON, France (AFP) — French cycling heroine Jeannie Longo, who pulled out of next week’s world championships following reports she could be banned for missed doping tests, won the Rhone-Alpes time trial in south western France on Saturday.

Her lawyer Pierre Albert said that Longo, who normally does not compete in the race because of its closeness to the world championships, wanted to take her mind off the controversy engulfing her, and the victory had “lifted her morale.”

“It’s the mark of great champions not to let yourself sink when you hit rock bottom, but to bounce back. That’s what she did,” said Albert. The 52-year-old covered the 24km course in 33min 06sec, finishing 1min 40sec ahead of her nearest rival.

Longo, a 59-time national champion, is under scrutiny for failing to inform anti-doping officials of her whereabouts ahead of random tests. The claims have put in doubt her plans to cap her stunning career with a possible final Olympic appearance in London next year.

An enquiry has also been opened by a French court into claims that her husband and coach Patrice Ciprelli purchased the banned blood booster EPO in 2007.

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