Twist of fate
Tour continues under a cloud of drugs
Posted: Monday July 20, 1998 11:25 AM
MONTAUBAN, France (CNN/SI) -- It is the irony of this years Tour de France that one day after an entire team was expelled based on the likelihood that they took drugs, the second week of the tour begins with Laurent Desbiens of France in the overall lead, a man who was suspended for six months after he tested positive in 1995 ago for the steroid nandrolone.
Thus the tour continues, laboring underneath the ominous shadow of performance-enhancers.
Laurent Desbiens of France took the yellow jersey after the eighth stage Sunday by being part of a small group that finished more than seven minutes ahead of the main pack. The main group included Jan Ullrich, the defending champion who took the lead following Saturday's time trial.
Saturday the Festina team did not take to the roads after the team's director, Bruno Roussel admitted in a statement through his lawyer that banned substances had been made available. The tour director, Jean-Marie Leblanc decided to expel the whole team.
Festina's director, Bruno Roussel, was under police detention for questioning, along with the team doctor. They were moved to Lille for further investigation.
Tour officials decided to throw the Festina team out of the three-week race Friday after Roussel admitted supplying illegal drugs with medical supervision to improve performances.
The riders of the Festina team withdrew from the Tour after first trying to defy the ban and race in Saturday's time trial.
Roussel, team doctor Eric Ryckaert and team masseur Willy Voet were still under police custody Sunday. Voet was jailed July 9 after customs officials found a stash of performance-enhancing drugs in Voet's car bearing Festina emblems.
The three are expected to have their first confrontation in court on July 24.
Before that, the rest of the Festina team might be summoned by police in Lille. Originally, investigators planned to wait until the Tour was over before hearing the riders.
Meanwhile, Jacky Durand of France won the eighth stage, leading a group that included Desbiens in Sunday's leg from Brive-La Gaillarde to Montauban, a stretch of 118 miles.
Durand won the final sprint over Andrea Tafi, with two other Italians, Fabio Sacchi and Eddy Mazzoleni, third and fourth.
Desbiens was fifth.
The pack finished more than seven minutes behind Durand. That was enough to let Desbiens take the leader's yellow jersey from Ullrich.
Temperatures reached 104 degrees on the road, and the favorites in the pack let the small group escape without risking much.
"After 40 kilometers, I was tired already and I was giving water to other members of the team just to help Hamburger," Durand said.
Bo Hamburger was second in the overall standings at the time, and Durand was trying to keep him in contention.
"The pack was tired because of the heat, and somehow I wound up with more water than expected," Durand said. "Maybe that's why I won."
The extreme heat prompted Tour officials to change regulations to allow water to be brought to the riders more often than usual.
Desbiens is not expected to hold the lead in the mountains. Desbiens ended up nearly four hours behind Ullrich in last year's final standings, placing 127th.
Ullrich is now fifth, 3:21 behind, but he still has a good margin over his major rivals.
Hamburger, of Denmark, is 1:18 behind Ullrich in sixth, with American Bobby Julich in seventh, in the same time as Hamburger.
Last year, Ullrich made his first big move in the Pyrenees to take control of the race for good, stretching his lead by minutes over the final 12 days with the help of his German Telekom team.
Only the Festina team, led by Richard Virenque, was able to challenge Ullrich and Telekom. Virenque was the only racer within 10 minutes of Ullrich in 1997.
But the Festina team is out of the Tour now, and a person that had a positive drug test is in the lead.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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