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Cycling: Prosecutors examine syringes

French prosecutors have launched a preliminary investigation to examine syringes found during this year's Tour de France. The case was opened after the discovery of several suspicious syringes in a container given by organisers to all the teams in order to collect medical waste, the Paris prosecutors' office said yesterday, on the eve of the 2010 Tour course unveiling in Paris.

However, the office said it was not targeting a specific team, refuting a report by L'Equipe on Tuesday that said Astana was being investigated.

According to L'Equipe, the syringes will be analysed by a forensic lab called Toxlab, which is responsible for determining their content. Both the Tour winner Alberto Contador and third-place Lance Armstrong rode with Astana in this year's race, although there is no suggestion whatsoever of wrongdoing on their part. The Spaniard is still under contract with the Kazakh-funded team while the Texan left to launch his own squad, RadioShack.

While there were no positive tests at this year's Tour, authorities did seize drugs that the French anti-doping agency's scientific adviser said raised questions.

The drugs – which include treatments for diabetes, high blood pressure and convulsions suffered by manic depressives – are not banned but are "incongruous" in top-level athletes, said Professor Michel Rieu last week.

Rieu declined to say which teams the substances had been taken from, saying that it was part of a judicial investigation.

Frank Vandenbroucke OBITUARY, PAGE 41