French legislature could match 1998 Tour samples with names; Jalabert says he can’t be certain he wasn’t doped

Laurent Jalabert tells panel he never knowingly took banned substances without a Therapeutic Use Exemption

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PARIS (AFP) — A commission of inquiry for the senate in France will soon be able to put names on the anti-doping samples taken during the 1998 Tour de France, Senator Jean-Jacques PS Lozach said on Wednesday. Former world champion Laurent Jalabert told legislators that he could not be certain that team doctors at ONCE had not administered to him performance enhancing drugs in the 1990s.

“We are able to make comparisons between samples and PV with the names [of the riders],” said Lozach. “We still want to do a medical examination for all certainty, but we already have a very high probability” of successfully matching identities, the senator told Agence France Presse.

“We do not yet know how we will use it,” he added, stating that the decision would be taken jointly with other members of the commission.

In 2005, the anti-doping laboratory Chatenay-Malabry retested 60 samples from the 1998 Tour. Those tests searched for, among other substances, EPO, which was undetectable in tests available in 1998 and 1999. Those samples came to the laboratory without identification, as is protocol.

“At the moment we have received those [1998 tests] and we thank the Department,” said Mr. Lozach.

Of the 60 samples retested, 44 contained traces of EPO, according an AFLD report sent to USADA.

It was during the 1998 Tour that the Festina affair erupted. After Festina captain Richard Virenque’s soigneur, Willy Voet, was arrested with doping products in his car prior to the Tour, the team’s riders and management were taken into custody. Jalabert led a rider protest that saw a number of teams, including ONCE, withdraw from the race. The late Marco Pantani won the overall ahead of Jan Ullrich and Bobby Julich. Each has subsequently been nabbed in doping inquiries or admitted to using banned substances.

Jalabert unsure of ONCE treatments

On Wednesday, Jalabert testified that he had never knowingly taken performance enhancing drugs without a Therapeutic Use Exemption.

“I’ve never looked at meeting doctors in order to improve my performance,” said Jalabert. “I’ve never spent a franc for seeing or buying forbidden substances. I’ve never wished to take part in the arms race.”

Jalabert rode for Manolo Saiz at ONCE from from 1992-2000 and for Bjarne Riis at CSC in 2001-2003. Saiz was exonerated last month on charges that he endangered riders’ health in organizing doping programs for the team, which later became Liberty Seguros and Würth, with Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes. Witness testimony at the Fuentes trial tied Riis to the banned doping doctor as well, but the Danish team manager, who admitted to doping his way to the 1996 Tour title, has been quiet over the issue.

Jalabert, who twice won the Tour’s green jersey and later the mountains classification, said on Wednesday that he could not deny with certainty having used PEDs.

“I can’t firmly say that I’ve never taken anything illegal,” he said. “I’ve effectively used products when it was necessary, in case of lesions or other injuries. At ONCE, in the evening after the stages, the doctor took care of us, for our recovery, but we didn’t really know what it was. A relationship with doctors based on mutual trust was established, so we didn’t ask questions. We were treated, I’ve never said otherwise. Were we doped? I believe we weren’t.”

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