Work in Sports
US Postal drugs probe
French 'preliminary inquiry' into Armstrong's team
Updated: Tuesday November 07, 2000 12:47 PM
PARIS (AP) -- Acting on an anonymous tip, the Paris prosecutor's office has opened an investigation into the possible alleged use of banned substances during this year's Tour de France by the US Postal Service cycling team, headed by two-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong, judicial sources said Tuesday.
The investigation was opened on October 18, and is being carried out by the Paris police's anti-drug squad, according to the sources, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.
The sources were confirming a report in Tuesday's edition of the newspaper Le Monde.
The daily said the investigation was triggered by an anonymous letter sent to the prosecutor's office and claiming that suspect behavior apparently linked to the American team had been detected by a crew from the state-run France 3 TV station during the Tour.
Armstrong won the 2000 Tour, held in July, for the second straight year. The Texan, who made a spectacular recovery from testicular cancer, has been hounded by allegations that he used performance-enhancing drugs.
Armstrong has repeatedly denied such claims.
The Judicial sources said that some reporters from France 3 had been among those questioned in the French investigation which parallels a high-profile doping trial ending Tuesday in the city of Lille. The trial of 10 people grew out of the doping scandal that rocked the 1998 Tour de France, beginning with the expulsion of the Festina team.
France 3 Managing Editor Herve Brusini told Le Monde that the TV crew had noticed a "strange ballet" being performed on the sidelines of the US Postal team during the 2000 Tour. It included the coming and going of two men who loaded a large car with German license plates with plastic bags, then unloaded them in another spot.
Compresses, some packaging from foreign products and medicine were among the items found in the plastic bags, Le Monde wrote.
Tests on the bottles might determine whether their contents had included doping products.
US Postal Service sporting director Johan Bruyneel told The Associated Press that the team had not been informed by French officials about an investigation.
"I have not been approached by anyone about this, nor has anyone of the team in the United States," he said by telephone from his Spanish vacation home.
"Today is the first thing I hear 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," he said.
"Of course I continue to deny all doping allegations."
Revelations about extensive doping in the cycling world emerged during the two-week Festina trial. French cycling star Richard Virenque was among several who confessed to using doping products.