CONFUSION OVER ?VERY WORRYING? TOUR DE FRANCE BLOOD TEST RESULTS

According to Friday’s edition of French newspaper Le Monde, 10 riders competing in the Tour de France have been given letters from the Agence francaise de lutte contre le dopage (AFLD) warning them they have “assez troublantes? or very worrying blood values.

The newspaper does not reveal the names of the riders or the values of their blood but says the results are from the pre-race tests carried out on all the 180 riders last Thursday and Friday before the start of the Tour de France in Brest.

The Le Monde story said that ten riders had unusual blood parameters but the number is actually 20 according to Philippe Sagot, the deputy secretary-general of the AFLD in an interview with the Associated Press news agency, although he insisted they perhaps indicated possible illnesses and health risks rather than doping.

?Around 20 riders have results a little high, right on the limit,? Sagot said.

?There are no infractions, but some figures are very close to the limit, particularly as regards the level of haematocrit.?

The AFLD tried to further clarify their position in a press release on Friday afternoon claiming the results of the tests will only be passed onto the rider during the weekend. However they suggested the riders involved should see their team doctor because of possible health risks indicated by certain blood values.

None of the riders involved have so far been named. However the news of unusual blood values on the Tour de France will surely hit the headlines in the coming days.

All blood tests in this year’s Tour de France are being carried by the AFLD because of the fallout between the Tour de France organisers ASO and the UCI, and the decision to run the Tour under French Cycling Federation rules.

The AFLD were not given information from the UCI’s biological passport system and have no records of riders’ previous blood tests or average blood profiles, so it is difficult for them to fully understand why a rider may have unusual blood values.

Certain values of haematocrit, haemoglobin, reticulocytes could indicate the use of EPO but could also be caused by illness or naturally high values.

Italian media have reported that Riccardo Ricco and Damiano Cunego have been tested virtually every day since the start the start of the Tour. Both riders have naturally high haematocrit levels and have UCI certificates proving it.

However their blood tests could have mistakenly started alarm bells ringing at the AFLD and so lead to the extra testing.

‘VALV.PITI’ BLOOD BAG MUST BE TESTED

Just as Alejandro Valverde seemed to have the Tour at his feet, with all the rumours connecting him with Operacion Puerto pushed into the background, the Court of Abitration for Sport has made a ruling that threatens to overshadow this year?s Tour de France and Valverde?s immediate career.

Yesterday (Thursday) CAS decided that it was the correct body to rule on a case between the World Anti-Doping Authority and the Union Cycliste Internationale against the Spanish Cycling Federation. WADA and UCI have appealed against the Spanish Federation?s decision not to open disciplinary proceedings against Valverde on the back of the Puerto investigation.

As part of its ruling, CAS has given the Spanish Federation six months to produce a vital part of the evidence in any potential Valverde investigation: blood bag ?no. 18?. This, the infamous ?Valv Piti? blood bag seized during Operacion Puerto, has been in the Spanish authorities? possession, but the magistrate in charge of the case in Spain has so far refused a request from CAS to provide the bag. The Spanish now have six months to provide it before CAS hears the case against them.

With the UCI instigating biological passports for the riders this year, the option of carrying out DNA testing on the blood in bag ?no. 18? might finally reveal if ?Valv Piti? really is Valverde. But, with all such cases involving potential doping tending to drag on, we are still a long way from being there yet.

Valverde has always denied doping but has admitted working with Dr Fuentes when he was riding for the Kelme team.

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage six: Ricco storms to win

Stage five: Cavendish takes first Tour win

Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead

Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break

Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint

Stage one: Valverde wins

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: NEWS

Millar to go for yellow [stage six]

Team Columbia’s reaction to Cavendish’s win [stage five]

Cavendish talks about his Tour stage win

Tour comment: Why Evans should be happy [stage four]

Millar: Still aiming for Tour yellow jersey [stage 4]

Who is Romain Feillu?

Cavendish disappointed with stage two result

Millar too close to Tour yellow jersey

Stage 2 preview: A sprint finish for Cavendish?

Millar happy after gains precious seconds in Plumelec

Valverde delighted with opening Tour stage win

Comment: Is Valverde’s win a good thing for the Tour?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS

Stage six

Stage five

Stage four

Stage three

Stage two

Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

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