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Speculation catches fire over Tour de France positive

By Cyclingnews staff

After the UCI announced yesterday that one rider had an A sample positive in the 2006 Tour de France, there has been strong speculation about the identity of the rider. The UCI will not confirm the name of the rider until the B sample results come back, but that could be within the week.

Under the Tour de France doping controls, at the end of each stage, the stage winner and yellow jersey wearer are tested, plus at least two random selections, as well as two reserves. It's understood the turn-around for the doping tests is usually within a week.

The UCI said that the rider, his team, his federation, his national anti-doping organisation, and the World Anti-Doping Agency have all been informed. So far, the federations of Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and Spain have all denied being contacted by the UCI. Yesterday, USA Cycling federation also denied being contacted by the UCI, while Cycling Australia has also not been contacted by the UCI in regard to the Tour de France.

However, the UCI's announcement has led to a wildfire of speculation in Europe, leading to a de facto process of elimination to identify the rider.

"The adverse analytical finding received this morning relates to the first analysis, and will have to be confirmed either by a counter analysis required by the rider, or by the fact that the rider renounces that counter analysis," said the UCI in a statement.

Various newspapers have carried speculative articles, claiming the postive result was from a stage in the final week of the Tour.

The Times newspaper is reporting that the positive was for testosterone, and occurred after Stage 17 to Morzine, won by Floyd Landis (Phonak). The yellow jersey was retained on that stage by Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) by a slender 12 seconds, following Landis' phenomenal 130km attack that stunned the field.

On the other hand, La Gazzetta dello Sport reports that the positive was for a stimulant, it happened in the last week, and involved an important rider "high up in the classification".

Both newspapers, in addition to several other European news outlets, are drawing on circumstantial events involving the Tour's overall winner, Floyd Landis.

Apparently, Landis was supposed to have competed in a post-Tour criterium in Chaam in The Netherlands on Wednesday night, but did not race, citing hip problems. He left the hotel at 4:30pm with team manager John Lelangue, and also cancelled a criterium appointment in Denmark for today (Thursday).

His sudden withdrawal surprised race organisers, as it's understood the regular appearance fee at a post-Tour criterium for the reigning yellow jersey is 60,000 euros.

Cyclingnews has not been able to contact either Landis or team Phonak for a comment yet. Lelangue was not answering his phone and it appeared his message bank was full, while the PR person for Phonak was similarly uncontactable.

"We've never experienced a situation that a 'topper' hasn't shown up without officially cancelling," said John van den Akker, who put together the start list for the Acht van Chaam, to ANP. "We've also learned nothing more from Lelangue. It's unbelievable, because Landis is one of the friendliest riders in the peloton. In the morning before the race, various people had breakfast with him and there was nothing wrong."

Australian federation also denies

The CEO of Cycling Australia, told Cyclingnews that there had been no contact from the UCI in regard to anything concerning the 2006 Tour de France.

While Fredericks was reluctant to join a de-facto process-of-elimination, he was asked to react to the statement issued by the various European federations claiming they had not been informed by the UCI of any rider testing positive in the 2006 Tour de France. This followed on from the UCI advising in a previous statement that the as yet unnamed rider's team and federation had been contacted.

"No, we haven't heard a thing from the UCI in regard to the Tour, or the Spanish investigation, for that matter." Fredericks was referring to 'Operation Puerto' and the Australian rider Allan Davis (Liberty-Seguros) being allegedly named in the Spanish investigation.

However, Davis today released a statement denying any involvement with the investigation, and offered to provide his DNA so he could quickly clear his name and return to racing.

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