Cycling: Doctors' notes gave 12 Tour riders all-clear to take drugs

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Thirteen riders tested positive for drugs at the Tour de France this year, and all except the winner Floyd Landis had medical certificates allowing them to take banned substances.

Of the 105 riders tested, 60 per cent had the certificates, the head of the French Council to Prevent and Combat Doping said yesterday. Pierre Bordry said he was concerned by the large number of cyclists who had such medical certificates, which are approved by the sport's governing body, UCI. "I find it very surprising that among the number of riders in the Tour de France ... there are so many who suffer from problems that necessitate authorisation to take a banned substance," he said.

"This troubles me," Bordry added, suggesting that the medical certificates could be used to cover up doping. He said that his agency could take over approvals of medical certificates for the Tour de France next year from the UCI.

Bordry urged changes to the World Anti-Doping Agency rules, saying the thresholds for some substances were too high.

The UCI president, Pat McQuaid, defended his organisation's policy on medical waivers, saying it complies with WADA practices. "We follow the WADA rules and the WADA rules allow guys to have [the certificates] for certain things," McQuaid said. "It's not particular to cycling."

But he conceded some riders could be using medical certificates to gain an advantage. "It may be, but all we can do is follow the rules," he said. "It's not about us being strict or lenient."

With the exception of Landis, the UCI did not seek disciplinary proceedings against the other 12 cyclists who tested positive because they had a certificate, Bordry said. "This is not surprising" because it is the UCI itself which delivers the certificates, he said. He added that Landis did not have a certificate allowing him to take testosterone.

The American has been under investigation by cycling authorities after testing positive for high levels of testosterone during the race. The Tour de France has said it no longer considers Landis its champion.

Bordry said the positive tests found three classes of drugs - anabolic steroids, beta-2 agonists and corticosteroids.

* Samuel Sanchez won the 13th stage of the Tour of Spain yesterdaywith a late breakaway and Alejandro Valverde retained the overall lead. Sanchez, of the Euskaltel team, finished the 180 kilometre route from Guadalajara to Cuenca in 4hr 3min 43sec, ahead of Norway's Thor Hushovd and Valdverde, who were clocked with the same time.