By Agence France Presse
Prosecutors in Paris said Tuesday that they have launched an investigation into doping at this year’s Tour de France after the discovery of suspicious medical equipment, including “syringes and drips,” disposed of by teams in July.
According to French daily Le Monde, the investigation involves a number of teams including the Astana squad of Tour winner Alberto Contador and his soon-to-be-former teammate Lance Armstrong. Prosecutors, however, noted they are reviewing materials from several teams and have not targeted individual riders or specific teams thus far.
The Astana team said the news stories were the first it had heard of the investigation.
“The Astana Cycling Team has nothing to hide,” a team statement said. “The riders use no forbidden substances. The team is confident in the result of analysis performed or to be performed by a Parisian laboratory and is prepared to cooperate.”
The announcement comes just one day ahead of organizers’ planned unveiling of the route to be used in the 2010 edition of the Tour.
The investigation was triggered after several “suspicious items” were found among bags of medical waste delivered to the company contracted by the Tour to handle their disposal.
Prosecutors said that “suspect medical devices,” such as syringes and IV bags, will undergo detailed evaluation.
The sports daily L’Equipe backed up Le Monde’s claims regarding Astana, noting that some of the syringes being analyzed had been used by the Kazakh team.
“These syringes, used by the team of race winner Alberto Contador, were sent to the Parisian forensics laboratory Toxlab of Professor Gilbert Pepin and are currently being analysed to determine their contents,” read an article in L’Equipe.
On October 7, the French Anti-doping Agency (AFLD) indicated that officials had found “incongruous substances” in bins used by the Tour de France teams, but nothing that violated the World Anti-Doping Code.
According to the AFLD, sitagliptin, which is used by diabetics when injecting insulin, and valpromide, an anti-convulsant which is prescribed in the treatment of epilepsy and manic depression, featured in a “surprising medicinal arsenal.”
At the same time, the AFLD accused the International Cycling Union (UCI), its partner during anti-doping tests at the Tour de France, of showing “preferential treatment” to Astana.
The UCI rejected the accusations and described them as “completely unfounded.”