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Manuel Beltran headed home to Spain in shame on Saturday after being questioned for two hours by French police about his positive test for EPO at the Tour de France.

The police in Aurillac confirmed that nothing was found in his hotel room and released him after he signed a statement. He was escorted to Toulouse airport by the Liquigas team with the words of team manager Roberto Amadio ringing in his ears: ?It's in his contract. If he is positive, the company can ask him for damages. We did not ask him to win the Tour. He has no excuses, I am very disappointed."

Amadio insisted he knew nothing about Beltran using EPO as he desperately tried to keep Liquigas in the Tour de France and save the long-term future of the Italian team. The head of the Vuelta Espana, Victor Cordero, has already made it clear that Liquigas will not be invited to the Spanish stage race if Beltran?s B sample tests positive and other race organisers such as the Tour of Germany could also be considering shunning Liquigas.

Beltran sneaked out of a side door to be questioned by French police on Friday night and tried to save his skin and the Liquigas team in a statement issued in Spain.

"I sincerely hope that neither my team sponsors nor my colleagues are harmed by what has happened and I hope that no one takes action against them that indiscriminately harms them,? he said.

"Following the usual procedure in these cases, I will request a test of my B sample and request that my presumption of innocence be respected until we have the results of that test."

Patrice Clerc, president of organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) announced but then cancelled a press conference at the start of the stage as ASO tried to play down the effect of Beltran?s positive, in the hope it will be considered an isolated incident.

"We have to stay calm. I don't understand why this should grow out of proportion. It?s normal that in such a big sporting event, with 180 riders at the start, there is a positive test. I am always surprised when in big sporting events no one gets caught," he said.


Beltran?s positive for EPO was discovered thanks to the pre-race blood tests and follow-up urine tests on stage one of the Tour.

According to the French L'Equipe newspaper, there are four or five other riders in the Tour de France with suspicious blood values which could be due to illness or naturally high values, but also be due to blood doping of some kind.

L'Equipe claims two riders have haemoglobin levels above the limit of 17.5 even though they do not have special UCI permission for naturally high values. Another case has both a high haemoglobin and reticulocytes ? this is suspected to be Beltran, and there are two other suspect cases.

L'Equipe explained that all the riders have undergone a series of normal after and pre-race anti-doping tests. The results will be know in the next few days.

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Stage one

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