Yesterday?s departure of Ricardo Ricco and the rest of his Saunier Duval team mates, escorted by the French Police amid an over-the-top media hustle, brought back unhappy memories of last year?s farcical situation in Pau when Alexandre Vinokourov tested positive for a blood transfusion and Astana were booted out.

But Saunier Duval weren?t booted out by ASO or anyone else, they left of their own accord. The question is, why?

Liquigas stayed in the race following Manuel Beltran?s positive test and Barloworld are still here ? even if they are down to a skeleton team of just four riders – so why did the Spanish team decide to leave in such a hurry?

They didn?t skulk home last year when their leader Iban Mayo tested positive for EPO, and aside from Ricco?s two fraudulent wins they were still having a great Tour. Leonardo Piepoli and Juan-José Cobo took first and second after dominating on the tough Pyrenean stage to Hautacam, and De La Fuentes stood to inherit the polka dot jersey that had been stripped from his team mate.

The grovelling Saunier Duval press release hastily sent out yesterday afternoon, talked of the team?s humble wish not to sully the image of the race any further. But among others there are mutterings that point to a more worrying scenario; that there could be more to come.

Ricco tested positive for a new kind of EPO, Micera, and may have thought there would be no test to discover this new drug ? did others in the team think the same?

The sudden departure of the squad yesterday morning could certainly be viewed as the actions of a group with a guilty conscience.

Worryingly there seems to be little surprise at the positive result among the Tour?s travelling press pack, and a source from another team went so far as to say Saunier Duval shouldn?t have been invited to the Tour in the first place.

It is unthinkable that after everything that has happened in the sport in the last two year?s that any team would have an organised doping program in their midst. With at least a five-day period between a sample being provided and a result being announced the Tour de France waits with baited breath.



TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage 13: Cavendish takes fourth win

Stage 12: Cavendish makes it three

Stage 11: Arvesen wins

Stage 10: Evans takes yellow jersey by one second

Stage nine: Ricco wins in the Pyrenees

Stage eight: Cavendish wins again in Toulouse

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

Ricco speaks on Italian television

Cavendish joins the all-time greats

Saunier Duval sack Ricco and Piepoli

Tour bosses say fight against doping continues

Ricco denies doping at the Tour

Saunier Duval pull out of Tour

Tour’s top ten changes

Ricco positive for EPO at Tour

Analysis: Tour de France rest day summary

Cavendish battles through Pyrenees

Evans suffers but takes yellow jersey [stage 10]

Analysis: Hautacam shakes up 2008 Tour

Ricco silences critics with solo attack in Pyrenees [stage nine]

Cavendish talks about his second stage win [stage eight]

Beltran heads home but doubts remain about other Tour riders

David Millar: the dope controls are working

Manuel Beltran tests positive for EPO at the Tour

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 12

Stage 11

Stage 11

Stage 10

Stage nine

Stage eight

Stage seven

Stage six

Stage five

Stage four

Stage three

Stage two

Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: BLOGS

Life at the Tour part three

Life at the Tour part two

Life at the Tour part one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

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