- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2008

FOIX, France | Just when the race was getting interesting at the Tour de France, another doping scandal erupted.

The 11th-stage victory Wednesday by Norwegian veteran Kurt-Asle Arvesen took a back seat to the arrest of Spain’s Moises Duenas Nevado after he tested positive for the banned performance enhancer EPO in the second doping bust this Tour.

“I just can’t understand. When are these guys going to learn?” International Cycling Union president Pat McQuaid said by phone. “If the ‘B’ sample is positive, then all I can say is the guy’s a fool. The net is closing in.”

“I’m very, very sorry for the image of cycling,” said Cadel Evans of Australia, lamenting the case that overshadowed his first ride in the yellow jersey on the 104.1-mile stage from Lannemezan to Foix. He said he had an opinion on the “sensitive issue” - but was keeping it to himself.

Before the stage began, police swept into the hotel in Tarbes where Duenas Nevado’s Barloworld team was staying. They detained him and seized unspecified “banned medicines” from his room, team officials said.

The 27-year-old Spaniard, riding in his third Tour de France, tested positive for EPO after the fourth stage time trial in Cholet on July 8, said Pierre Bordry, head of the French anti-doping agency.

Duenas Nevado, who had been 19th overall, was immediately suspended by his team and ousted from the race. On orders from a state prosecutor, police were holding him overnight for questioning - notably about where he may have obtained EPO, a police official said. Under French law, he can be held up to 24 hours.

The drug bust was only the latest in a string of doping scandals that have rocked cycling in recent years - and especially the Tour, its main event. Since the start of last year’s race, at least a half-dozen doping-related cases have hit the Tour.

“I’m shocked,” Barloworld manager Claudio Corti said. “The team is not involved in this story at all, and we’ll take severe action against anyone who damages our credibility and the image of our team.”

The case was the second positive EPO test in this Tour. Spanish veteran Manuel Beltran - a former teammate of seven-time winner Lance Armstrong - was sent home for testing positive after the first stage this year.

The drug bust siphoned off attention from what looks to be a still-wide open race, whose outcome is likely to be determined in three rides in the Alps starting Sunday and a time trial a day before the July 27 finish in Paris.

Arvesen, of Team CSC, led a photo-finish sprint among three riders in a 12-man group as the race left the Pyrenean foothills and headed toward three days of flat stages that are likely to favor sprinters.

Evans, the Silence Lotto team leader, stayed in yellow by finishing 14 minutes, 51 seconds back in the main pack that included his top rivals for the overall title in the three-week race.

The 31-year-old Australian, who was runner-up in last year’s Tour, held onto his narrow one second lead over Frank Schleck of Luxembourg. American rider Christian Vande Velde is third, 38 seconds behind.

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