By The Associated Press
MADRID, Spain (AP)- Three cyclists have denied a French newspaper report accusing them of testing positive for EPO during the 1999 Tour de France.
Le Journal du Dimanche reported Sunday that Spanish rider Manuel Beltran, Denmark’s Bo Hamburger and Colombia’s Joaquim Castelblanco are suspected of being among those whose frozen urine samples reportedly tested positive at a French laboratory.
Last month, the French sports daily L’Equipe reported that six urine samples provided by Lance Armstrong were among 12 specimens that were positive for EPO during the 1999 race. Armstrong, a seven-time Tour champion, has denied the allegation and said he was the victim of a “witch hunt.”
Le Journal du Dimanche report cited the French lab director, Jacques de Ceaurriz, as saying that about 15 samples tested positive for EPO, but that some of them “can be subject to interpretation.”
The newspaper said 12 tests were definite positives, but cited no sources.
Le Journal du Dimanche said four positives were on urine samples taken at the ’99 Tour prologue. Armstrong was tested that day because he won the prologue, while Beltran, Hamburger and Castelblanco were picked for tests on a random basis, the newspaper said.
Beltran said he is considering legal action.
“I am clearly in a situation that violates the rights we all have to the presumption of innocence,” Beltran said in a statement sent to the news agency Efe.
Hamburger, who has previously been suspected of using banned substances, called the French report “totally ridiculous.”
“If you have been through the whole humdrum once before, you apparently get through it again several times,” he told Denmark’s B.T. newspaper. “It doesn’t make things easier for me. It’s a bit tiring.”
Castelblanco, in an interview with Caracol radio of Colombia, denied willingly used banned substances. He ruled out that his Kelme-Costablanca Spanish team would have administered EPO, which boosts the amount of oxygen-rich red blood cells.
“When one joins a team you work with the team doctors … In Europe, everything is more advanced and it is impossible that they would provide it,” he said.
The 32-year-old Colombian won the 2004 Tour of Colombia, but his title was revoked after he tested positive for excessive levels of testosterone. The Colombian Olympic Committee banned Castelblanco for six months for the infraction.
In 2003, Denmark’s sports confederation reversed Hamburger’s lifetime ban from the national team, citing his 2001 acquittal on charges he used a banned substance. A Sports Confederation of Denmark appeals board called the ban placed on Hamburger by the Danish Cycling Union “invalid” because of his acquittal on charges he used EPO.
In August 2001, the Danish Doping Board cleared Hamburger of claims he had used EPO during the Fleche Wallone race in Liege, Belgium, earlier that year.
Hamburger, who denied ever using any banned substances, was the first rider to test positive for EPO under a new system introduced by the UCI in April 2001