An investigation into medical equipment seized by French police during the Tour de France is closing in on the Astana team. A new report by Le Monde states that the Central Office against Environmental Damage and Public Health (OCLAESP) will focus any further proceedings on the Astana team after finding insufficient evidence against other teams.
The public prosecutor in Paris opened the investigation in October after OCLAESP claimed it had uncovered "suspect" syringes of various sizes in the medical waste disposed by the Astana team. The latest finding states that infusion equipment, which was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in July of 2008, except in cases of medical emergency, was among the material.
The possession of materials such as intravenous drip bags could constitute a breach of French law banning the sale or possession of illegal drugs.
When asked if the Astana team used any equipment banned by WADA at this year's Tour de France, Johan Bruyneel, Team Manager at the time, said, "No, of course not."
Le Monde's sources claim that analysis of the medical waste show the presence of "polypeptides". The Paris laboratory Toxlab is testing for the presence of growth hormone. Also seized from the Astana team were anti-hypertensive drugs.
The newspaper also claims that DNA testing on the seized Astana team's material revealed the presence of seven unique DNA fingerprints, but linking the evidence to individual riders would rely upon the UCI sharing its blood profile data with the French authorities.
Such cooperation is complicated by a conflict between the UCI and the French anti-doping authority AFLD over testing at this year's Tour de France. The AFLD lodged repeated complaints this summer that the Astana team had been given preferential treatment by the UCI during the Tour de France, charging that riders were allowed to delay giving their samples by nearly an hour. The team denied holding up the proceedings, stating that the testers arrived earlier than expected and waited voluntarily.
Polypeptides are small protein fragments that could be just about anything, but illegal drugs like EPO and Human Growth Hormone are made of polypeptides.
Blood pressure medication isn't banned by WADA, but there is speculation that the drugs are used by athletes who use EPO or blood transfusions to prevent negative side-effects.
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