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LeMond calls for greater vigilance in anti-dope efforts

Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour de France, has called on cycling's governing bodies to stop stalling on introducing rules which could help quash the culture of drug-taking in the peloton. LeMond, who won the Tour in 1986, ’89 and ’90, slammed the failure of the sport's governing bodies to stem the flow of illicit drugs in the peloton. A week after the Giro d’Italia again displayed the propensity of cyclists to indulge in illicit doping practices, the American called for blood samples to be taken from all riders before and after races and kept for future

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By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright AFP2002

Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour de France, has called on cycling’s governing bodies to stop stalling on introducing rules which could help quash the culture of drug-taking in the peloton.

LeMond, who won the Tour in 1986, ’89 and ’90, slammed the failure of the sport’s governing bodies to stem the flow of illicit drugs in the peloton. A week after the Giro d’Italia again displayed the propensity of cyclists to indulge in illicit doping practices, the American called for blood samples to be taken from all riders before and after races and kept for future analysis.

“We have to start using blood tests because urine tests don’t detect everything,” LeMond told the French wire service AFP in an interview in New York Friday.

“It’s the only way it is going to work. Tests must be carried out before and after the big races such as the Tour de France, and the samples should be kept for a few years.”

LeMond was forced last year to make a public apology to fellow three-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong, after he expressed concern over Armstrong’s relationship with Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari.

LeMond slammed the failure of the sport’s leaders to bring a quicker end to the culture of EPO consumption which ultimately led to the Festina scandal that nearly ended the 1998 Tour de France and focused public attention on doping in the sport.

“The use of EPO goes back to 1991,” said LeMond. “Everyone knew then that there was a two-tier peloton (i.e. riders using and not using EPO). It just took 10 years to actually do something about it.”

During this year’s Giro, reigning champion Gilberto Simoni, of the Saeco team, was ejected after he twice tested positive for cocaine.

Meanwhile, Stefano Garzelli, the Mapei rider who had won the race in 2000, was also ejected from the race after he tested positive for Probenecid, a diuretic known also for its masking properties.

Simoni’s two positives finally led to his team’s expulsion from this year’s Tour de France. LeMond said he failed to see the logic of any rider using cocaine.

“I can’t believe Simoni used cocaine,” said LeMond. “Unless he’s addicted, it just doesn’t add up. I’ve never seen or heard about a rider using cocaine. It has a negative effect on performance. There’s no reason to take it.”

LeMond, who tried and failed to mount his own professional team, still has designs on becoming a team manager. Last year he joined up with the American Mercury-Viatel team before the arrangement collapsed under the weight of Viatel’s Dot-Bomb bankruptcy.

For the time being, LeMond feels Armstrong, who last year became the first American to win the Tour three times consecutively, is en route to a fourth yellow jersey.

“I think he’ll win his fourth yellow jersey because now that Jan Ullrich has pulled out, no-one can stop him (Armstrong),” said LeMond, “Lance is fantastic. I won’t be jealous if he wins a fourth title. You know, I feel I also won it four times. In 1985, I had a lead of a few minutes over (eventual winner) Bernard Hinault in the overall standings but I had to follow my team’s instructions to let him through and win the title.”Copyright AFP2002