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Laurent Jalabert led a rider protest in the wake of the 1998 Festina affair
Former world number 1 admits his reputation is tarnished
Tuesday's edition of L'Equipe gave more details on the retroactive detection of EPO in the samples of Laurent Jalabert during the 1998 Tour de France.
"Traces of synthetic EPO have been found in his urine collected on July 22, 1998 at the end of stage 11 from Luchon to Plateau de Beille (won by Marco Pantani)," wrote journalist Damien Ressiot, who immediately linked this information to the revelations he published on August 23, 2005 about Lance Armstrong's positives for EPO during the 1999 Tour de France. Both tests were conducted for research after EPO became detectable in 2001 and can't be considered as positive doping control stricto sensu.
Samples from the 1998 Tour de France were analyzed again in 2004. Most of them turned out to be positive for EPO. The French Senate anti-doping commission, which questioned 84 people since March 14, compared those results with the official records to come up with the names of the riders. Their final report is due to be made public on July 18.
According to L'Equipe, Jalabert's sample reached 94.8% of basic isoform while the standards of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) were 85% at the time. "His positivity is unquestionable," wrote Ressiot.
On May 15 of this year, Jalabert testified under oath in front of the commission. He can't be found guilty of perjury as he admitted to having been treated by the doctors of the teams he rode for. "I can't firmly say that I've never taken anything illegal," he said, suggesting that he might have been unknowingly doped. He was warned by the Senators that they had in their possession the official records of the 1998 Tour de France, but the former world number 1 didn't expect such news to emerge.
"I'm surprised," Jalabert told France Televisions. "When I was questioned by the commission, I wasn't told anything. I still haven't been informed since.” On radio station RTL, the other media organisation for which he works, Jalabert added: "Of course, it hurts. Five days before the Tour, I would have liked something else. This is really a difficult year for me [after the bad crash he had on his bike in March]. However, I'm also not very surprised. I don't know if there are other names. I don't know if all that is true and if I'll have evidence of it one day. But only my name came out and my reputation is tarnished. I don't want to argue, I don't have any proof.”
In a similar situation, the French anti-doping agency (AFLD) offered Armstrong the chance to have his samples tested once again after L'Equipe leaked the results in 2005 and before he made his comeback in 2009, but he just rejected the offer.
France Televisions and RTL have refused to comment and speculate on Jalabert's presence behind their microphones during the coming Tour de France.