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Originally published July 19, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified July 19, 2007 at 5:22 PM

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Tour de France | Taint of doping returns

Halfway through the Tour de France, no compelling newcomer has broken through, no favorite has emerged and doping allegations have surfaced...


Stage 11, 5:30 a.m., 9 a.m. (replay), Versus


MARSEILLE, France — Halfway through the Tour de France, no compelling newcomer has broken through, no favorite has emerged and doping allegations have surfaced yet again.

Cedric Vasseur of the Quick Step-Innergetic team became the first French rider to win a stage this year. But his victory and the Tour were overshadowed by the announcement of the doping test on cyclist Patrik Sinkewitz during a training session last month that turned up high levels of testosterone.

The announcement of the case by Germany's cycling federation of the T-Mobile team member, who crashed into a spectator on Sunday and withdrew from the Tour, returned the cloud of doping on a race that had reached its midpoint Wednesday.

The results of Sinkewitz's "A" sample, announced in Germany shortly before the stage began, quickly spread through the field on Wednesday.

Vasseur handled that field as he narrowly out-sprinted four other cyclists in a breakaway group during the 142.6-mile 10th stage from Tallard to Marseille under a searing sun to cross in 5 hours, 20 minutes, 24 seconds. It was his first win at cycling's biggest race since 1997.


Stage 11, 5:30 a.m., 9 a.m. (replay), Versus

Michael Rasmussen retained the overall leader's yellow jersey, finishing in 30th place among his top rivals. The Rabobank leader is 2 minutes, 35 seconds ahead of second-place Alejandro Valverde of the Caisse d'Epargne team and 2:39 in front of Duval-Prodir's Iban Mayo in third.

Wednesday's stage didn't alter the standings among the remaining contenders, many of whom were recovering from three rides in the Alps. Two time trials and three stages in the Pyrenees await before the July 29 finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

The T-Mobile team, which has enacted some of the toughest anti-doping measures in the sport in response to doping controversies, has been trying to rebuild among young riders. Sinkewitz is 26.

T-Mobile temporarily suspended Sinkewitz.

He has five days to decide whether to request a B sample test. If that also comes back positive, he faces a possible ban. He also would be fired by his team and have to pay back his annual salary.

"The entire team was stunned," T-Mobile sporting manager Bob Stapleton said. "It was quite a shock to everybody, but ... they're fighters, they came here to compete."

While the results took two weeks to come to light, Sinkewitz and four teammates were tested June 8 during a training run in the Pyrenees mountains — where the race heads next week.

"It's not possible. I know nothing about it," Sinkewitz told the German news agency DPA. "I am about to have surgery. I can't deal with it now."

T-Mobile said Sinkewitz was undergoing surgery on his jaw at a Hamburg, Germany clinic, a consequence of Sunday's crash. The revelation was a blow for T-Mobile.

Jan Ullrich, a former team leader who won the Tour in 1997, retired this year after he was mentioned in the Spanish anti-doping probe known as Operation Puerto.

Two German public television stations that had been broadcasting the Tour responded by saying they were dropping their coverage "until further notice."

The next major change among the leaders is likely to come in Saturday's 13th stage — a 33.6-mile time trial.

Among the remaining contenders, Cadel Evans of Predictor-Lotto is fourth, 2:41 back; Christophe Moreau of AG2R Prevoyance is sixth, 3:18 behind; Carlos Sastre of Team CSC trails by 3:39 in seventh, and Levi Leipheimer of Team Discovery Channel is ninth, 3:53 off the pace.

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