Tour said to have better chance of clean race, winner

Updated: June 22, 2007, 9:40 AM ET
Associated Press

PARIS -- Cycling's anti-doping director said the winner and top riders of the Tour de France have a greater chance of being clean this year because of tougher testing.

Anne Gripper of the UCI, the sport's governing body, would not say how many unannounced tests riders will face before the Tour start on July 7. But it would be more than the 153 out-of-competition samples the UCI conducted in 2006.

"It's a big step forward in ensuring the integrity of the Tour," she said in a phone interview.

"My view is: if the age old question of 'Is it possible to win or do well in the Tour without doping?' I think this year coming up it is more likely than it has been for many years," said Gripper, who was appointed UCI's new anti-doping manager in October.

Tour favorites and others "more at risk of any form of doping" are getting special attention. Some riders will have had three or four out-of-competition tests before the Tour starts in London, with testing spread across all 21 teams, she said.

Gripper said "robust" anti-drug programs implemented by two of cycling's top teams, CSC and T-Mobile, mean "it would be almost impossible for the riders in those teams to even consider any form of doping."

Sports newspaper L'Equipe reported that the UCI is targeting six to seven potentially "high risk" riders but Gripper said its more.

"It may be six or seven riders for a period while we make sure they are properly tested, but then we get some more information on some other riders and so we may focus our attention on those," she said.

Multiple factors can lead the UCI to zero in on a rider, she said, including "who they train with, where they go to do their training, how they train, what their performances have been like in past races: did they do something particularly extraordinary?

"We certainly don't have enough information to go as far as say that we suspect them of doping, we just have information that would indicate that it's worth ensuring that we do test them on an unannounced basis."

She said it was too early to say whether tests have come back positive but added not all of them have been negative.

"For some of them we have to do some follow-up testing," she said. "It's not many but it's too early to actually make any definite statements."

No riders have been notified of an anti-doping violation and no B-samples have so far been tested, she said.

In Friday's L'Equipe, top Tour favorite Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan said he has faced three unannounced tests this year, the latest at the beginning of this month. He said he has heard nothing back from the UCI.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press