Cycling: ONCE threaten boycott of Tour

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The Independent Online
ON THE day that four race riders failed blood tests, one of the Spanish teams who withdrew from this year's Tour de France threatened to boycott the sport's premier event in future.

ONCE, who were the target of police searches during the Tour, said the team would take part in the event and other French races only if riders could race without interference from the authorities beyond internationally accepted drug tests.

They came under scrutiny as French police joined investigations into the Festina team after claims that illegal drugs had been smuggled into France. All four Spanish teams were among those who pulled out of the Tour in protest. On Monday, it emerged that tests on substances seized from another team, TVM, on the Tour had confirmed the presence of illegal drugs.

Four riders in the Mobilvetta team were disqualified from the Tour of Portugal yesterday after blood tests. The Italians' haematocrit level - the proportion of red blood cells in the blood - was above 50 per cent. That level is considered a health risk and can indicate the use of erythropoietin (EPO). EPO, a synthetic hormone that stimulates production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, was at the centre of the Tour de France allegations.

Yesterday riders' representatives met officials of the sport's governing body, the ICU, at the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland, to discuss the sport's drug crisis.

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