US Postal team in drugs probe

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The Independent Online

A preliminary inquiry into allegations regarding the use of banned substances during this year's Tour de France by Lance Armstrong's US Postal Service team has been opened by the Paris prosecutor's office following an anonymous tip-off.

A preliminary inquiry into allegations regarding the use of banned substances during this year's Tour de France by Lance Armstrong's US Postal Service team has been opened by the Paris prosecutor's office following an anonymous tip-off.

Reports in France say the the office received a letter saying that suspect behaviour was detected by a television crew from the France 3 station during the Tour. Judicial sources confirmed yesterday that an investigation had been opened on 18 October.

According to the sources, the investigation was being carried out by the Paris police's drug squad, and reporters from France 3 had been questioned. A preliminary inquiry aims to find out whether there are grounds to start a proper inquiry, but it is reported that investigators have not yet found any evidence.

Herve Brusini, France 3's managing editor, said the crew noticed a "strange ballet" being performed on the sidelines, including the actions of two men who loaded a large car with German licence plates with plastic bags, before unloading them at another location. Compresses, packaging from foreign products and medicine were among items found in the bags.

Tests being carried out on some of the bottles could determine whether their contents included doping products.

Armstrong, who recovered from testicular cancer to win the 1999 and 2000 Tours, has been persistently hounded by allegations that he has used performance-enhancing drugs, and his name has been one of many invoked at the trial relating to alleged doping in the Festina team.

However, the Texan has repeatedly denied such claims. "I have not been approached by anyone about this, nor has anyone from the team in the United States," the US Postal team manager Johan Bruyneel said. "Today is the first thing I've heard about this, and it is through the media. I have no idea what it is about. I have heard that it concerns an anonymous letter. Of course, I continue to deny all doping allegations."

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