The organisers of the Tour de France have confirmed that Spain?s Manuel Beltran of the Liquigas team has tested positive for EPO.

ASO said it had contacted the Liquigas team to inform them of Beltran’s positive test for EPO and said the team would immediately pull the rider out of the Tour de France.

The news of Beltran’s positive was confirmed by Pierre Bordry, head of the French anti-doping agency AFLD to the Associated Press news agency.

?There are not just traces of EPO, there is EPO. Whether there is a lot or a little, EPO is forbidden,” Bodry said.

According to Reuters news agency, French police have begun searching the Liquigas team hotel. Under French law doping is a penal offence and Beltran and other riders could be taken into police custody for questioning.

According to doping expert Damien Ressiot on the Equipe.fr website, 37 year-old Beltran?s A urine sample, taken after Saturday?s opening stage of the Tour de France, contained traces of EPO.

Beltran is an experienced climber and has been a professional since 1995. During his career he has ridden for Mapei, Banesto, Coast and Discovery Channel. Beltran rode for Lance Armstrong in 2003, 2004 and 2005 when the American won the Tour. Both Beltran and Armstrong were accused by L’Equipe newspaper as being among several riders whose urine tests from the 1999 Tour de France showed signs of EPO. Armstrong has always denied the L’Equipe accusations.

Beltran joined the Liquigas team in 2007. He finished 18th overall in the 2007 Tour and was in 26th place after Friday’s stage, 3:20 behind the race leader.

Late on Friday evening, the Liquigas team announced that Beltran would immediately be pulled out of the Tour de France and suspended, adding that he would be sacked and sued for damages if the counter-analysis confirmed the positive for EPO.

Team manager Roberto Amadio insisted that the Liquigas team was shocked by the news of Beltran?s positive.

?We?re stunned by the news. We?ll wait for the other tests and even though it?s painful, we?ll take severe action respecting the values that our team has always respected,? Amadio said.

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage seven: Sanchez takes action-packed stage

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

Comment: How the Tour rediscovered its spirit

Doping back in Tour de France headlines

Millar: close but no cigar in Super-Besse [stage six]

Super-Besse shows form of main contenders [stage six]

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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