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Cycling probe: Doping by Pantani, Ullrich in 1998

July 24, 2013

PARIS (AP) — A French inquiry into sports doping has uncovered proof that 1998 Tour de France champion Marco Pantani and runner-up Jan Ullrich used the banned blood-booster EPO to fuel their performances.

France’s senate, after a five-month investigation focused on fighting sports doping, released a report Wednesday that reveals what many have long suspected: Use of the banned substance EPO was rife in cycling in the late 1990s, before there was a test for the drug.

Pantani was suspended in 1999 from the Giro after failing a random blood test, and his career was damaged by several doping investigations. He died in 2004 at 34 of an accidental drug overdose.

Ullrich has admitted to blood doping and last year was stripped of his third-place finish in the 2005 Tour.

The 1998 Tour de France was notable for the major scandal that emerged with the discovery of widespread doping on the French Festina team. The subsequent police crackdown led to seven of the original 21 teams either withdrawing or being ejected from the Tour.

Other star riders whose positive doping tests were disclosed by the senate report include double stage winner Mario Cipollini of Italy and Laurent Jalabert of France. Kevin Livingston, an American who finished 17th in that year’s Tour, also tested positive for EPO, according to documents included in the report.

Third-place finisher, American Bobby Julich, last year admitted to his own EPO use during the 1998 Tour.

Senators took pains to point out that the 1998 Tour de France disclosures represented only a few pages of the 800-page report released Wednesday, which mainly focused on establishing the size of the doping problem and identifying ways to improve anti-doping measures.

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