- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2006

12:13 p.m.

STRASBOURG, France (AP) — Favorites Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso and other cyclists were barred today from the Tour de France in the biggest doping scandal to hit cycling in years.

The decision to prevent Ullrich, Basso and others from racing threw the sport’s premier race into upheaval the day before it begins.

Tour director Christian Prudhomme said the organizers’ determination to fight doping was “total.”

“The enemy is not cycling, the enemy is doping,” he said.

Riders being excluded will not be replaced, meaning a smaller field than the 189 racers originally expected.

It’s the biggest doping crisis to the hit the sport since the Festina scandal in 1998 nearly derailed the Tour. The Festina team was ejected from the race after customs officers found a large stash of banned drugs in a team car.

Basso, winner of the Giro d’Italia, and Ullrich — the 1997 Tour winner and a five-time runner-up — were among more than 50 cyclists said to have been implicated in a Spanish doping probe that has rocked the sport for weeks.

Basso and Ullrich’s teams said that because their names had come up in the probe they were being withdrawn from the Tour. Ullrich’s T-Mobile squad said it also suspended rider Oscar Sevilla and sporting director Rudi Pevenage because of their involvement.

Tour officials did not immediately say how many other riders were barred from the race.

The Spanish doping scandal erupted in May when police carried out arrests and raids, seizing drugs and frozen blood thought to have been prepared for banned, performance-enhancing transfusions.

Since then, the names of riders said to have had contacts with Eufemiano Fuentes, a doctor among those arrested, have leaked in Spanish media. Ullrich was among those named.

Then, after more leaks Thursday, Spanish authorities released details from the probe to Tour organizers and other cycling bodies, showing which riders were implicated in the investigation. It was on the basis of that official information that Tour teams decided to act.

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