Cofidis have withdrawn from the Tour de France on Wednesday evening after the latest doping storm to hit the blighted 2007 edition of the race was centred around team member Cristian Moreni. Moreni tested positive for exogenous testosterone after stage 11 last week, a result that was leaked in the French press on Wednesday as Moreni was still out on the road in stage 16.

As Moreni crossed the line on the Col d’Aubisque, he was met by officers from the French police, who immediately arrested the Italian in connection with the positive test. All of the Cofidis team were questioned by police and then transported back to the team hotel by gendarmes. British team member Bradley Wiggins was in the same police car as Sylvain Chavanel, and as they got out of the vehicle were accompanied by officers directly into their accommodation without pausing for comment to the assembled press.

According to Cofidis manager Eric Boyer, Moreni has not requested that his B-sample is tested, and accepted the initial positive result for testosterone without argument.

Cofidis are the second team to withdraw from the race after Astana exited on Tuesday in the light of Alexandre Vinokourov’s positive test result for homologous blood transfusion after Saturday’s stage 13 time trial.

The team’s withdrawal from the race will come as a great disappointment to British fans. Wiggins was one of five British riders to start the Tour this year, and has performed extremely well – posting a fourth place in the opening prologue in London, spending all day on a lone break on stage 6 and then coming fifth in the Albi individual time trial. Wiggins is well known for his staunch views on doping, and is likely to be bitterly disappointed that his race has ended prematurely due to the selfish actions of a team member.

Cofidis are one of the longest-running professional teams in the ProTour, and one of France’s most successful squads. Their exit from the Tour will affect French cycling deeply, and may well spell the end of the credit company’s sponsorship of the team.

The nine-man Cofidis Tour de France squad:
Sylvain Chavanel (Fra)
Bradley Wiggins (GBr)
Stephane Auge (Fra)
Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) – already withdrawn
Cristian Moreni (Ita)
Nick Nuyens (Bel)
Ivan Parra (Col) – already withdrawn
Staf Scheirlincknx (Bel)
Rik Verbrugghe (Bel)