Tour-Beltran arrested after positive EPO test
By Julien Pretot
AURILLAC, France, July 11 (Reuters) – Spaniard Manuel Beltran of the Liquigas team was arrested by French police on Friday after it was announced he had tested positive for EPO on the Tour de France, authorities said on Friday.
“Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) has contacted Liquigas to inform them that their rider Manuel Beltran has tested positive,” an executive for Tour organisers ASO told Reuters.
Beltran’s positive test, which is the first in this year’s Tour, showed traces of the blood-boosting drug erythropoietin (EPO), the French Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) said.
He was 26th in the overall standings after Friday’s seventh stage from Brioude to Aurillac.
“Manuel Beltran has been taken for questioning,” said a spokesman for the Aurillac gendarmerie, who had earlier raided the Liquigas accommodation at the Hotel des Voyageurs.
Liquigas team manager Roberto Amadio told ASO that Beltran, 37, would be withdrawn from the race although having imposed that sanction the Italian team will carry on.
“We are shocked and ready to take all the most severe measures if the ‘B’ sample comes back positive,” Amadio was quoted as saying in a Liquigas statement. It added that Liquigas would sack Beltran from the team with immediate effect if the ‘B’ sample is returned positive.
Tour organisers, while disappointed with the day’s events, stressed that the right system is in place to catch drug users.
“The noose is tightening on the cheats,” ASO said in a statement. “The organisation appreciates the efficiency of the system set up by the AFLD.”
‘Txiki’ Beltran has three Tour stage wins to his name, all of them team time trials with Lance Armstrong’s US Postal and Discovery Channel teams in 2003, 2004 and 2005.
He also won the Tour of Catalunya in 1999.
Liquigas said in April they had hired Italian Ivan Basso on a two-year contract. Basso is serving a two-year suspension after being implicated in the Operation Puerto blood doping scandal in Spain and cannot race until October.