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French committee to publish doping report

A French parliamentary commission was on Wednesday due to make public its long-awaited report on doping in sport, possibly divulging the names of cyclists alleged to have taken performance-enhancing drugs during the 1998 Tour de France.

French committee to publish doping report
Overall leader's yellow jersey Britain's Christopher Froome arrives at the anti-doping control bus at the end of the eighteenth stage of this year's Tour de France. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

UPDATE: CLICK HERE for the results of the report

The commission made waves on May 15th by announcing that senators from the upper chamber of parliament would reveal the identities of those riders using the banned blood booster erythropoetin (EPO) during the race.

Last month, French former rider Laurent Jalabert was alleged to have been one of those implicated through comparison of retrospective testing results from 2004 and a list of anonymous samples from 1998.

Jalabert immediately stepped down as a television and radio pundit for the Tour, which started on June 29th.

Since then, there has been debate in France about the utility of naming names, with the family of the 1998 winner Marco Pantani, who died in 2004, saying they were against identifying riders.

The professional cyclists' union the CPA last Friday said that it, too, was opposed to publication.

"Publication of a list amounts… to an accusation of doping without any means of defence," the union said, arguing that no counter-analysis was possible as the original samples no longer existed.

Nevertheless, the senators are believed to be likely to publish the riders' identities and could equally include lists of samples taken on the 1999 Tour, which was won by US rider Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour wins and banned from cycling for life last year for doping in a scandal that plunged cycling into crisis about the extent of substance abuse among the peloton.

The commission questioned 84 witnesses under oath, from sportsmen and women to organizers and anti-doping experts, to "lift the lid" on and "break the code of silence" over the subject.

Cycling, with its doping-scarred past, has not been the only focus, however, with attention also paid in particular to rugby.

The French anti-doping agency assessed that the sport was the most affected by doping in relation to its testing, while football and tennis were also examined.

France football coach Didier Deschamps was questioned behind closed doors while tennis came under the scanner for its relative lack of testing at an international level.

The senators are aiming to frame legislation on sport and put it before parliament for debate next year.

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SPORT

French government: All athletes must be vaccinated to compete in France

All athletes and sports professionals who wish to compete in France will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19, government sources told AFP on Monday.

Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic
Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic. Photo: Oscar del Polzo/AFP

The French parliament has just given the go-ahead for the health pass to be converted into a vaccine pass, which means that anyone wishing to enter leisure and cultural venues – including sports grounds and stadiums – will have to be vaccinated.

This goes for the crowd, but also professional sports players and staff. The government has indicated that exemptions will not be made athletes who are based outside France.

The ministry said a new vaccine pass, “applies to everyone, to volunteers and to elite sportspeople, including those coming from abroad, until further notice.”

READ ALSO What changes when France’s health pass becomes a vaccine pass

Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said last week that certain events like the French Open could have a special exemption, when asked whether Novak Djokovic could play in the tournament, but this appears now to not be the case.

Questions had been asked about whether the unvaccinated Djokivic – recently deported from Australia – would be able to play in the French Open in May, but the ruling would affect all visiting sports professionals, including rugby teams from England, Ireland and Italy who are due to play in France during the Six Nations tournament in February and March.

Until now a health pass has been sufficient to enter sports grounds, which means unvaccinated players and fans were able to use a negative Covid test.

However once the vaccine pass enters into effect – scheduled to be later this week – only proof of vaccination will be affected.

French domestic sports teams were given the choice of either making sure that all their players and staff were fully vaccinated or playing behind closed doors.

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