A chance reservation meant I was staying in the Barloworld team hotel on Tuesday night in the Tour de France. And that meant that when I went downstairs on Wednesday morning at around 9.30 am it was to find a large number of gendarmes buzzing around the lobby.
They?d come to arrest Moises Dueñas, the Spanish rider on the Barloworld team, following his positive ?A? test for EPO. Doping is a criminal offence in France, and to judge by the number of policemen - a guesstimate would be around 40, with some eight or nine police vehicles in the street outside - it?s not one they take lightly.
Four or five blue-shirted gendarmes form a line across the main door of the Hotel Le Rex, a large building situated on a side-street close to Tarbes central square. Others are standing around outside.
Their mood is businesslike to say the least. ?Either stay in or go out, but don?t hang around here.? one gendarme growls at me when I approach the hotel?s main door.
Yet more are on the sixth floor, where the entire Barloworld team have their accommodation and Dueñas's room is being searched, just like Manolo Beltran?s when the results from his failed dope test came through last week.
Back downstairs there?s a real feeling of tension in the air, coupled with confusion. Journalists staying in the hotel stand around in tiny knots in the centre of the lobby, trying to find out what has happened and waiting to see who, if anybody, gets taken away by the police. Meanwhile, in one corner, a Barloworld team official is talking nineteen to the dozen into his mobile phone.
Nobody seems to know what is going on, although the rumour that it is Dueñas who?s been caught circulates persistently.
There are other Barloworld riders in the lift I catch back up to my room on the fourth floor, their faces grim. They don?t say anything although one team assistant is talking shrilly to them in Afrikaans. Whatever she?s saying it?s not good.
TV cameramen gradually appear outside the hotel, but the gendarmes don?t seem to want to let them in. It later emerges that Dueñas has been escorted out the hotel?s back entrance. Slowly but surely whilst the media gather, the tension deflates.
Ninety minutes after the first policemen have arrived, with a wailing of sirens, they?re gone. The impact of the Tour?s second failed dope test of 2008 will surely last a lot longer.
Second doping case hits Tour de France
|TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS|
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|
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 Neltran 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|
|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|
Tour de France 2008 homepage>>
News and features>>
All the riders (start list, list of abandons)>>
Day by day summary>>
Route & stages>>
Teams and riders>>
About the Tour>>
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