Team Astana are being investigated regarding a “penal infraction” relating to blood transfusion equipment seized from the team during the 2009 Tour de France according to a report on the Le Monde website.
The race was won by Astana rider Alberto Contador, with Lance Armstrong – then riding for Astana - coming third.
Le Monde quote a source from the Parisian Public Prosecutor's office as saying that the preliminary conclusions of the investigation by the anti-drug police from the Central Office against Environmental Damage and Public Health (OCLAESP) into various medical equipment and waste generated by a number of teams at this year's Tour will now focus on Astana.
According to Le Monde, blood transfusion equipment was seized by the French equivalent of the drugs squad from the Kazakh team during this year's race – possession of such equipment is in itself a criminal offence in France. Such equipment is also on the World Anti Doping Agency's banned list.
However, the bad news for Astana doesn't end there. According to Le Monde, tests are now being carried out to see if traces of growth hormone can be found on some of the syringes seized. If such substances are found to be present the consequences for the Kazakh team could be dire indeed and Alberto Contador could find himself unable to defend a Tour win for the second time.
But there is another however, which is that reports in the French media of drugs related infractions particularly involving teams managed by Johan Bruyneel have often in the past proved unfounded.
As we reported in October an official investigation was already underway in France into some of the medical waste generated by the teams in this year's race, some of which was being examined by a forensics lab. Astana were at that time identified by the French media as being at the centre of the investigation, something which was vigourously denied by the team.
The investigation itself was met with puzzlement by some observers because it was pointed out that the team's waste was 'official' waste handed over to the Tour organisers for disposal and possible testing as a matter of routine by the participating teams. According to Le Monde, insufficient evidence was found amongst the samples from other teams analysed by the investigation.
Tony has been editing cycling magazines and websites since 1997 starting out as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning road.cc - which he continues to edit today. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes.