Police take mystery bags from Astana hotel

French police officers departed the hotel of the disgraced Astana team in Pau, France late on Tuesday carrying a number of bags and cases, but refused to make any comment.

French police officers departed the team hotel of the disgraced Astana team in Pau, France late on Tuesday carrying a number of bags and cases, but refused to make any comment.

Over a dozen police officers had arrived at the hotel following the news of Alexandre Vinokourov's positive test for blood doping which has led to the team bowing out of the race at the organisers' request.

The Astana team, the team's bus, and several team vehicles were still at the hotel while some of the riders and some of the team's staff were also present.

Police had initially arrived carrying a number of sports bags. It is unsure what was in the bags, although several of the team's riders had left the hotel some time earlier.

It later emerged that French customs had stopped and searched a car from the Astana cycling team at a tollgate near Toulouse.

Toulouse general prosecutor Paul Michel told AFP that a team car had been stopped just before 2100 GMT and it was being searched.

"This search could have something to do with doping," he told AFP.

"Several people belonging to the team were in the vehicle.

"They have been questioned by the customs officials. After that the police could also want to talk to them."

Police at Astana's team hotel, where rider German Andreas Kloden was still staying, were earlier seen removing unidentified items from the bus in black bags.

An AFP photographer at the scene said he then witnessed police searching black rubbish bags, which had been handed to them by staff at the hotel.

Vinokourov, the winner of two stages on the race but who tested positive following his win in Saturday's 13th stage, reportedly left the hotel from the back door at 16h30 local time (1430 GMT).

The scene was witnessed by an AFP reporter.

© AFP 2007

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