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Three days after French sports paper L'Equipe alleged that traces of EPO had been found in a sample of Lance Armstrong's urine from the 1999 Tour de France by the French Chatenay Malabry anti-doping lab, further reports have emerged claiming that French police staked out a Discovery Channel team hotel during the 2005 Tour following a tip-off by their Italian counterparts.
A report in French newspaper Le Monde on Wednesday repeated allegations from a source which claimed to have access to documentation in the possession of French drugs police in Paris. Among these documents is what is claimed to be a photograph of an unidentified man entering the Discovery Channel team hotel in Grenoble on the night of the Tour's first rest day, carrying a large blue ice-box.
According to Le Monde, the French police's narcotics branch, based in Paris, deployed around six officers in civilian clothes to intercept the same man on the second rest day of the Tour in Pau. Le Monde claims the French police had been told by their Italian counterparts that the man was likely to pay his next visit to the team's lodgings in Pau on Monday, July 18.
Some sources have claimed that the French police received further support from private investigators said to be tracking Armstrong at the 2005 Tour on behalf of Texan insurers SCA Promotions.
Le Monde claims that the undercover officers observed the hotel for some 12 hours, but that the surveillance operation was thwarted when a television crew received a tip-off and revealed the police presence. An investigation into the identity of the man photographed in Grenoble on July 11 is said, by procycling sources, to be ongoing.
In a video-conference in Washington DC, Armstrong yesterday issued his latest rebuttal of the allegations made by L'Equipe on Monday. "When I gave the samples in 1999, there was no EPO in my urine - I can guarantee that," said the seven-time Tour winner.
Armstrong has always maintained that he has never used performance-enhancing drugs, pointing to the fact that he has never tested positive for a banned substance in controls sanctioned by any governing body.
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