Germany's Stefan Schumacher of Team Gerolsteiner pulled on the Tour de France yellow jersey in Cholet, France Tuesday, and was then forced to defend himself quickly over a positive test for amphetamines.
Schumacher meanwhile has been allowed to race by organisers, in spite of a positive test for amphetamines in an out-of-competition control undertaken by police last year.
The controversy stems from the fact that only weeks before the July 5-27 race, Belgium's number one team, QuickStep, revealed that their star sprinter Tom Boonen had tested positive for cocaine.
Tour officials, keen to promote the race as squeaky clean after years of chasing the drugs cheats, promptly told Boonen to stay at home - but allowed Schumacher to race.
Schumacher said he was sorry over the "regrettable" episode which occurred only a week after last week's world championships in Stuttgart. The German claimed he did not take amphetamines, a stimulant which can be found in many over-the-counter medicines, and he was quick to underline the differences in his and Boonen's case.
"Our cases cannot be compared. Tom Boonen underwent a doping test. I didn't undergo a doping test. It was a police control when I was coming back from a disco," said Schumacher as he sat in the race's yellow jersey. "I don't have a problem with Boonen, he's a big champion and I don't know why he's not been invited to the Tour.
"He tested positive, but he hasn't done anything to break the WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) code, but I can't comment too much on his case because I don't know all the details."
Boonen, the winner of last year's green jersey for the race's points competition, tested positive in an out-of-competition control by the ministry of the Flemish Community on May 26.
Because the control was not undertaken by a sports body Boonen cannot be handed a sporting sanction such as a ban, although he risks a fine.
At the time, Tour de France chief Christian Prudhomme admitted it was not a case of Boonen enhancing his performance, but added: "Tom Boonen is a big champion, but a big champion must also be exemplary."
Gerolsteiner team manager Hans-Michael Holczer, who is still searching for a new team sponsor because the German bottled water company is pulling out at the end of 2008, also defended his rider.
"Schumacher's accident wasn't an anti-doping control. It was a police control, which is different from the Boonen situation," he said. "Stefan had paid dearly for this whole episode. He's been able to ride since March, but we've sanctioned him and now for us the affair is over."
© BikeRadar & AFP 2008