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Astana manager believes in the testing process

Astana team manager Marc Biver said he had confidence in the blood doping test which has snared his star rider Alexandre Vinokourov and caused a scandal here at the Tour de France.

Biver was speaking only hours after being told that 33-year-old team leader Vinokorov, the winner of two stages on this year's race, had tested positive for homologous blood doping.
If a test on his 'B' sample also tests positive, it means that Vinokourov has injected red blood cells from a compatible donor to enhance his performance.

"We can't condemn Alexandre until we know there has been a clear doping violation, and we have to wait for the result of the 'B' sample," said Biver. "But for us, if his 'A' sample tested positive then he is guilty until the 'B' sample proves otherwise."

The sample which tested positive for blood doping was taken from Vinokourov after his victory in the race's 13th stage time trial in Albi.

Biver has now suspended his star rider, and agreed to leave the race after speaking to Patrice Clerc, the president of the Tour de France's parent company, ASO (Amaury Sports Organisation).

"I spoke with Patrice Clerc and we both agreed that the best thing for us to do would be to leave the Tour. I don't think it would be appropriate for the other teams, and I don't want to cause any problems for ASO."

Biver said he had spoken with Vinkourov after hearing the bad news from a race official.
"He (Vinokourov) said he couldn't understand how it could have happened. He believes it is the result of his crash.

"But the test used was validated by WADA (World Anti Doping Agency), and so the test is credible."

Vinokourov's Tour began disastrously, when he crashed on the fifth stage and sustained cuts to both knees which required over 30 stitches.

Germany's Andreas Kloden, the team's other hopeful for the yellow jersey, was one of several riders picked at random for a doping control after the time trial, in which he finished third.

Biver added: "Andreas Kloden was also tested in Albi, but his test was negative."

Biver said the anti-doping official who had informed him of the news at 1400 local time (1600 GMT) on Tuesday said the Kazakh's 'A' sample "contained an imbalance of young and old blood cells.

"I was called at 1400 (local time) this afternoon by the president of thejury. He told me that Vino had tested positive for a blood transfusion," added Biver.

"Apparently there is an imbalance in the old and young red blood cells in the blood sample. We have suspended him and sent him home. He is positive, and that is not a good thing."

Biver, who before the start of the Tour stood by Vinokourov's decision to keep working with Italian sports doctor Michele Ferrari, who in the past has faced charges of administering banned substances to riders, said it was "a big shock for me personally, but also for the team."

But he added: "It is obvious that it (the test) is impossible to manipulate."

© AFP 2007

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