Police investigators target Astana team

PARIS, (Reuters) – The Astana team of Tour de France winner Alberto Contador and Lance Armstrong is the target of a probe after suspicious medical material was seized during this year’s race, a source close to the police investigation said.

A spokeswoman for the French prosecutors that opened the  preliminary investigation after the race last July said yesterday several teams she declined to name were involved.

However, the source close to the investigation told Reuters  police were particularly interested in Astana.

The investigation was opened after syringes and transfusion  material were found in a container used by the Kazakh-funded  team to dump medical waste during the last four stages of this  year’s race, the source added.

The spokeswoman for the prosecutors said: “It (the material)  is now being analysed by experts to determine whether we can  find illegal substances and DNA that could possibly link it to  riders”.

Under French law, a preliminary investigation is launched to  see if there are sufficient grounds for a formal investigation.

Spain’s Contador won the race for Astana while seven times  Tour champion Armstrong came out of retirement to finish third  for the same team.

ASTANA SURPRISED

“Astana Cycling Team is surprised to read in the French  press that the team is involved in an investigation by French  prosecutors into doping”, the team said in a statement.

“These media reports are the first we as a team have heard  of an investigation. According to the press articles, the  investigation involves a number of cycling teams having  participated in the 2009 Tour de France.

“The Astana Cycling Team has nothing to hide, the riders use  no forbidden substances, the team is confident in the result of  analyses performed or to be performed by a Parisian laboratory  and is prepared to cooperate,” Astana added.

The French anti-doping agency (AFLD) said this month a  report on testing procedures during this year’s Tour suggested  Astana were given preferential treatment during the race.

Astana and the International Cycling Union (UCI) dismissed  the suggestions as groundless.

News of the investigation came ahead of the presentation of  the route for the 2010 Tour de France in Paris today.

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