Drugs a hot topic again as rider quits the Tour
Posted: Sunday July 25, 1999 11:11 PM
SAINT-FLOUR, France (CNN/SI) -- Tensions from last year's drug scandal resurfaced after France's Christophe Bassons quit the Tour de France saying he felt "psychologically isolated."
Bassons has consistently spoken out against drugs, and he said the other riders have told him to keep quiet.
Bassons, who wrote in a newspaper column that he only drinks "plain water," has drawn attention by speaking out against drug taking in a daily column in the Le Parisien newspaper. On Thursday, he wrote that leader Lance Armstrong approached him and suggested that he leave the race.
"Armstrong told me: Why don't you just go away?" Basson wrote.
Last year's race was overshadowed by a drug controversy in which the Festina team was thrown out of the race and six other teams withdrew.
The scandal brought the race to a temporary halt and has plagued the sport since.
Armstrong has been forced to respond to a campaign of innuendo in parts of the French press about what might be fueling his success.
Armstrong, who has made an astonishing recovery from testicular cancer, has categorically denied taking banned drugs, crediting his success to hard work, preparation and good luck.
Jean-Marie Leblanc, president of the company that runs the Tour, said Friday that the results from a third set of blood tests -- which included race-leader Lance Armstrong and his U.S. Postal Service team -- turned out negative.
And he voiced confidence in this year's competitors, saying on French radio he is convinced that illegal drugs such as the performance-enhancing EPO have "all but disappeared" from the race.
"I am not going to sign a piece of paper guaranteeing that Armstrong or another is completely pure, but experienced Tour watchers can tell by observing the riders and their performances," Leblanc added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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