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Tour ends clean as stiff tests paying off

MAYBE they were spooked about getting caught, maybe they've been sly, but the Tour de France was completed on Sunday without a single rider testing positive for doping this year - so far.

At an event hit by at least one drug scandal every year since 2000, including six in 2008 alone, does the lack of positives mean that the peloton is clean?

Cycling officials, race organizers and many competitors don't dare say so, but many hope the anti-doping fight - with a stiff new testing regime and screening techniques - is bearing fruit.

"I'd say it's being won, I never said it has been won," said Pat McQuaid, head of the International Cycling Union. "Even if we do end up with a positive in this year's Tour, it's not a disaster. The fact is that the culture is changing."

But Pierre Bordry, head of the French anti-doping agency, said it was "far too early to report on the testing because we haven't received all the test results yet."

Bordry has expressed concerns that a secret wonder drug could simply be under the radar, in what has become a perennial cat-and-mouse game between cheaters and anti-doping testers.

Storing samples

Anti-doping officials are storing samples after conducting hundreds of tests this year - meaning that even if testing technology can't turn up positive cases today, maybe some day it will.

Sport officials are bracing for the prospect that positive cases from this Tour could turn up days, weeks or even months from now.

Take Danilo di Luca, who finished second in the Giro d'Italia in May but didn't ride at the Tour. Cycling's governing body suspended him two months after the Giro ended for testing positive for the banned blood-booster CERA.

"Serenity at the Tour de France on this subject doesn't come easy," said race director Christian Prudhomme. "We're not going to imagine that all's the best in all possible worlds.

"There will no doubt be scandals tomorrow. As you saw, there was one in parallel with this Tour - the Di Luca case - though it didn't pollute this Tour."

France's anti-doping agency said Sunday it will retest blood samples from last year's Tour, mainly for CERA - an advanced form of banned endurance-boosting drug EPO.


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