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German broadcasters pull Tour de France coverage

Two German broadcasters announced Thursday that they will not broadcast live coverage of the Tour de France in 2009. The decision by ARD and ZDF comes in response to a spate of recent positive doping tests among several high profile athletes who competed in the Tour de France in July of 2008.

"The regard for the Tour de France has considerably decreased due to the increase in doping cases," said the chairman of ARD Fritz Raff according to AFP. "The interest in its coverage has also decreased considerably."

ZDF backed up ARD by telling AFP it would not broadcast the Tour without the ARD.

In response, Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), organizers of the Tour de France, defended its efforts to combat doping. "For several years, we have been engaged in the thankless fight against doping," ASO said in a statement. "In the latest edition, the French Antidoping Agency (AFLD), handled the doping controls independently. Seven riders were convicted of doping and are excluded from the race."

"ARD calls for the fight against doping, but then is offended when we find the riders who are doping. They would like us to search [for dopers], but find nothing," continued the statement, which re-iterated a recent comment by Pierre Bordry, President of the AFLD. "On October 14, he said, 'The majority of riders are not doping.'"

Despite the decision of the two German organizations not to provide live Tour de France coverage, ASO assured Germans they will still be able to watch the French Grand Tour on television.

"The 2009 Tour will be brought to Germany. German viewers will be able to follow the Tour on Eurosport."

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