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Tour said to have better chance of clean race, winner

PARIS -- Cycling's anti-doping director said the winner and
top riders of the Tour de France have a greater chance of being
clean this year because of tougher testing.

Anne Gripper of the UCI, the sport's governing body, would not
say how many unannounced tests riders will face before the Tour
start on July 7. But it would be more than the 153
out-of-competition samples the UCI conducted in 2006.

"It's a big step forward in ensuring the integrity of the
Tour," she said in a phone interview.

"My view is: if the age old question of 'Is it possible to win
or do well in the Tour without doping?' I think this year coming up
it is more likely than it has been for many years," said Gripper,
who was appointed UCI's new anti-doping manager in October.

Tour favorites and others "more at risk of any form of doping"
are getting special attention. Some riders will have had three or
four out-of-competition tests before the Tour starts in London,
with testing spread across all 21 teams, she said.

Gripper said "robust" anti-drug programs implemented by two of
cycling's top teams, CSC and T-Mobile, mean "it would be almost
impossible for the riders in those teams to even consider any form
of doping."

Sports newspaper L'Equipe reported that the UCI is targeting six
to seven potentially "high risk" riders but Gripper said its
more.

"It may be six or seven riders for a period while we make sure
they are properly tested, but then we get some more information on
some other riders and so we may focus our attention on those," she
said.

Multiple factors can lead the UCI to zero in on a rider, she
said, including "who they train with, where they go to do their
training, how they train, what their performances have been like in
past races: did they do something particularly extraordinary?

"We certainly don't have enough information to go as far as say
that we suspect them of doping, we just have information that would
indicate that it's worth ensuring that we do test them on an
unannounced basis."

She said it was too early to say whether tests have come back
positive but added not all of them have been negative.

"For some of them we have to do some follow-up testing," she
said. "It's not many but it's too early to actually make any
definite statements."

No riders have been notified of an anti-doping violation and no
B-samples have so far been tested, she said.

In Friday's L'Equipe, top Tour favorite Alexandre Vinokourov of
Kazakhstan said he has faced three unannounced tests this year, the
latest at the beginning of this month. He said he has heard nothing
back from the UCI.