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The Italian Anti-Doping Police (NAS) searched the hotel used by the Saunier Duval and Davitamon-Lotto teams in Sandrigo yesterday afternoon, and took away some glucose products and a hypobaric chamber. The two teams doctors were also taken in for questioning but both were released without charge later in the evening.
The search was undertaken on the orders of the Vicenza prosecutor, Paolo Pecori. It is not known why the NAS were sent to this particular hotel, nor why there were, according to some witnesses, reporters and photographers waiting for the police to arrive at 4pm, while yesterday's Giro stage was still in progress.
Although the use of hypobaric chambers to simulate atmospheric conditions found at altitude is not banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), their use is banned in Italy under national law. The devices are widely used by athletes in many sports to boost red blood cell levels in a legitimate way.
The Saunier Duval team released a statement last night saying that their doctor, Maria Sagasti, had been released after verifying that products found in the team's possession had been declared on Saunier's entry into Italy. The statement also denied some reports that the doctor had been found throwing torn-up papers into a rubbish bin.
The hybobaric chamber was taken from the Davitamon team. Asked for a comment on the news after his third stage win of the race yesterday, Davitamon-Lotto sprinter Robbie McEwen said: "I believe one team rider uses it. Personally I've never used it."
Team manager Herman Frison described the raid as "ridiculous". Frison explained: "We declared all of the material we brought to the race. A hundred Belgian physios have this kind of product. They just want to destabilise us. The fact that photographers were accompanying the police is symptomatic."
Focusing on the better part of Davitamon-Lotto's day, McEwen admitted that his narrow victory over Alessandro Petacchi on the Giro's 10th stage was his best of the race. "It was a perfect sprint. Beating Petacchi, who is considered the fastest rider in the world, is great, but it was difficult. In the last few metres I just focused on my jump for the line and it worked out for me."
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