By Nigel Wynn
Samples taken from race winner Marco Pantani and runner-up Jan Ullrich during the 1998 Tour de France have tested positive for banned blood booster erythropoetin (EPO), according to a French Senate Commission report published on Wednesday morning.
The report revealed a list of riders who took part in the 1998 Tour whose urine samples were retroactively tested for banned substances and returned a positive result for EPO. Mario Cipollini, Laurent Jalabert, Erik Zabel, Bo Hamburger, Manuel Beltran, Andrea Tafi, Marcos Serrano, Jackie Durand, Jens Heppner, Jeroen Blijlevens, Nicola Minali, Fabio Sacchi, Eddy Mazzoleni, Abraham Olano, Laurent Desbiens and Kevin Livingston also returned positive test results.
The tests were carried out in 2004 on the stored samples by a French laboratory run by the AFLD (Agence Francais de Lutte contre le Dopage), but rider names were only recently matched to sample numbers. There was no test for EPO in 1998.
Ullrich admitted to blood doping during his career in June, using the lab of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, the medic at the centre of the Operaction Puerto doping investigation. Pantani died of a cocaine overdose in 2004.
Former French rider Jacky Durand had pre-empted his name appearing on the list. The 1998 Tour stage winner and comabitivity award recipient issued a statement via Eurosport, for which he is currently a commentator, saying: "The next generation must not pay for our crap from the past."
Ex-pro Laurent Jalabert stepped down from his job as Tour commentator with France2 television before the 2013 race started after news leaked via French newspaper L'Equipe that he, too, was named as being one of the positives.
"I can't say if it's true and I can't say if it's false, but what I will say is that it is a surprise," said Jalabert. "I only learned about it by reading the paper and I wasn't ready for it. So samples collected in 1998 were tested in 2004 and we get this news now, in 2013? Well..."
The 1998 Tour de France was won by Marco Pantini, with Jan Ullrich second and Bobby Julich third. Julich's samples did not provide a conclusive test result, though it is listed as suspicious. Other riders with suspicious samples were listed: Ermanno Brignoli, Alain Turicchia, Pascal Chanteur, Frédéric Moncassin, Roland Meier, Giuseppe Calcaterra, Stefano Zanini, Stéphane Barthe, Stuart O'Grady and Axel Merckx.
O'Grady announced his immediate retirement from professional cycling on Monday.
The Senate report outlined 60 proposals on how to improve the fight against doping in sport.
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