Tour president Patrice Clerc speaks about the four riders who could be thrown out of the Tour for alThe president of Tour de France organisers ASO, Patrice Clerc, last night (Friday) hesitated to condemn French newspaper Le Monde for publishing reports which imply that four Tour de France riders are involved in ongoing legal investigations and should therefore be thrown off the race. Speaking exclusively to proycling in Angers on Friday night, Clerc stressed that he had "no personal issue with Le Monde." Referring to the cases of Pavel Padrnos (US Postal), Stefano Zanini (Quick Step), Martin Hvastija (Alessio) and Stefano Casagranda (Saeco), he said: "We are confronted with two different versions of events: one from the teams of the riders and one from a newspaper. At the moment I simply can't attach more importance to a newspaper report than to what the respective teams are telling us." After the initial reports on Wednesday to the effect that the four riders were facing trial for doping offences, Clerc formally requested confirmation or a denial from the investigating authorities in Italy. That is yet to arrive. The management of the teams involved, meanwhile, have reaffirmed the innocence of their riders. "We sought further reassurances from the teams involved after the first report in Le Monde, and they all reaffirmed their original stance, namely that their riders weren't involved in any affair," Clerc told procycling. "For our part, we have again formally requested more precise information from the Italian authorities. As long as we don't have any further information from Italy, we can't know what the outcome of this affair will be." Clerc then affirmed that, should confirmation of the Le Monde report arrive, he "would act quickly and firmly." Like Danilo di Luca and Cdric Vasseur before the race, he said, any or all of the four would be excluded from the Tour if their involvement in an ongoing legal or police inquiry was verified. Asked whether he felt aggrieved that Le Monde seemed to have obtained the legal documentation before the organiser of the world's most powerful cycle race, Clerc smiled ruefully: "We live in a world now where justice is done through newspapers. That applies not only to sport but to everything else. The press and the judicial system are intimately connected. That's the case in France, at least, and I suspect it is in Italy, too. "Does it bother me that the press is talking about doping so much? No. I just hope that people don't talk about doping more than they talk about the race," Clerc continued. "Today [Friday], the race was a fine spectacle, so it would be nice if that was acknowledged. That doesn't mean, though, that the problem of doping should be buried at the Tour de France. If we don't talk about doping, if we don't talk about how to combat the problem, then cycling will never be able to lift itself out of the rut it has got into. We must never stop talking about doping, just as we should never stop fighting it."