Samples taken from race winner Marco Pantani and runner-up Jan Ullrich during the 1998 Tour de France have tested positive for banned blood booster erythropoetin (EPO), according to a French Senate Commission report published on Wednesday morning.

The report revealed a list of riders who took part in the 1998 Tour whose urine samples were retroactively tested for banned substances and returned a positive result for EPO. Mario Cipollini, Laurent Jalabert, Erik Zabel, Bo Hamburger, Manuel Beltran, Andrea Tafi, Marcos Serrano, Jackie Durand, Jens Heppner, Jeroen Blijlevens, Nicola Minali, Fabio Sacchi, Eddy Mazzoleni, Abraham Olano, Laurent Desbiens and Kevin Livingston also returned positive test results.

The tests were carried out in 2004 on the stored samples by a French laboratory run by the AFLD (Agence Francais de Lutte contre le Dopage), but rider names were only recently matched to sample numbers. There was no test for EPO in 1998.

Ullrich admitted to blood doping during his career in June, using the lab of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, the medic at the centre of the Operaction Puerto doping investigation. Pantani died of a cocaine overdose in 2004.

Former French rider Jacky Durand had pre-empted his name appearing on the list. The 1998 Tour stage winner and comabitivity award recipient issued a statement via Eurosport, for which he is currently a commentator, saying: “The next generation must not pay for our crap from the past.”

Ex-pro Laurent Jalabert stepped down from his job as Tour commentator with France2 television before the 2013 race started after news leaked via French newspaper L’Equipe that he, too, was named as being one of the positives. 

“I can’t say if it’s true and I can’t say if it’s false, but what I will say is that it is a surprise,” said Jalabert. “I only learned about it by reading the paper and I wasn’t ready for it. So samples collected in 1998 were tested in 2004 and we get this news now, in 2013? Well…”

The 1998 Tour de France was won by Marco Pantini, with Jan Ullrich second and Bobby Julich third. Julich’s samples did not provide a conclusive test result, though it is listed as suspicious. Other riders with suspicious samples were listed: Ermanno Brignoli, Alain Turicchia, Pascal Chanteur, Frédéric Moncassin, Roland Meier, Giuseppe Calcaterra, Stefano Zanini, Stéphane Barthe, Stuart O’Grady and Axel Merckx.

O’Grady announced his immediate retirement from professional cycling on Monday.

The Senate report outlined 60 proposals on how to improve the fight against doping in sport.

Related links



Laurent Jalabert: The jig is up

  • Tom Knox

    What lessons can we learn from this dark era to help us from repeating it in the future. In the USA cycling press we seem to have learned nothing; all I read is how the new generation of young riders are all clean. And we have turned the corner on the doping problem. Why do they think that? While Chris Froome could clearly be seen tiring in the later parts of the tour a number of first year tour riders from teams with well documented doping histories seemed stronger everyday! Why? One reason may be that for every rider Like David Millar that acknowledged his past and taken a leadership position in fighting the culture of corruption, there must be ten athletes and staff that also doped and have yet to make a stand or even address the doping issue. Yet some teams (SKY included) have seen fit to fire anyone with a doping past. This seem foolish to me because that leaves impressionable young riders surrounded by many unrepentant dopers that have yet to acknowledge their past. I think it is important to support those who have admitted their past and embraced a clean future since they know what lead to the doping era, and how to best avoid those pitfalls in the future. They are essential if we are to lead the youth of the sport forward. It is a small step the sport can take.

  • Binghammer

    Thanks, Stu’ O’Grady, for joining the D-List! You only took EPO that one time, in 1998, right?
    Well, if you say so. Trouble is, I am coming around to the belief that my sport, perhaps most of elite sport, has existed in a sort of Alice in Wonderland world, starring superman himself, Lance Armstrong running the Mad Hatter’s EPO party.
    A few months ago I met up with a former Merseyside clubmate of mine, a former division road race champion. He told me how, way back in the 1960s, he had once been encouraged to join another club with the offer of a few pills which would make all the difference.
    To his credit, he declined.
    A few weeks ago I heard the story of how an amateur, after winning in great style at Crystal Palace, the South London circuit, admitted to taking “amphetamines.”
    Can’t prove any of this, but I have no reason to disbelieve the people who told me their stories.
    All I know is, the continuing drip, drip, drip of doping stories is chipping away at my resolve and
    although I myself will never lose interest in riding my bike, I am coming close to destroying all the cycling books in my possession, including even those I have contributed to.

  • Real Scandal

    The real scandal is that it has taken 10 years to publish the names of positive tests from samples taken 15 years ago…… How many more samples and positive results are still to be published?

  • Downfader

    Well Fignon warned that his abuse of substances affected his life – he used steroids to some extent and that should have served as a warning to younger riders. It probably shortened his life.

    Riders are still getting caught, but mostly thats because the testing has improved and the culture is changing. People want to know that their hero really is superman rather than the enhanced athlete. Anyone can take a pill to change their body after all. Commitment, instead, takes real guts

  • bfg

    Well this is going to make Chris Froomes performance at the tour look a little less credible.
    Lyndon Taylor, I totally agree Merckx was a doper. In my view anyone who repeatedly wins successive tours has either a large wallet to buy the races or is juiced. The tour organisers are extremely hipacritical wanting to rid the race of drug cheats but then either employ or invite the old guard to each years race. To see a car full of past tour champions driving along the
    Champs-Élysées disappointed me because out of Merckx, Hinault, Lemond and Induràin I can only really believe in Greg Lemond because he spoke out against Armstrong. Merckx tested positive three times and also according to Dr Ferrari, introduced him to a certain Lance Armstrong.
    Cycling weekly stopped selling DVDs of Armstrong however they still sell Merckx, Pantani, Coppi and Anquetil t-shirts??????????????????

    Pbody, you have slightly idiotic views on the future of cycle racing. Lance didn’t win on a level playing field as stated by Oliver and I have to agree. Your opinion of letting everyone take drugs would kill our sport as the future generations would be discouraged from entering into it. I can guarantee this would happen because as a parent I would encourage my children to take up a different sport.

    If the UCI, WADA, race organisers, sponsors and journalists want a cleaner sport then they need to get tougher and not just on cycling.
    It’s about time the incentives for cheating were removed. The current two year ban should be extended by at least another year for a first offence. A second offence should be a life ban for the athlete. If an athlete has ever had a ban then they cannot be allowed to work in any capacity within sport. Any athlete caught using banned substances should have all titles and wins removed from history and be made to pay back any prize money to the organisers.
    The team as a whole should also receive a fine and race suspension of a time period decided by the UCI & WADA.

    Hopefully this would encourage teams to keep a closer eye on the riders and staff; and by creating a system whereby the potential pitfalls heavily out way the rewards may lead to a clean sport that I would be happy to encourage my children to compete in.

  • steve clarke

    It is very difficult for me to get my head around all this.
    Once again our sport is being dragged through the mire.

    Loads of questions still need to be asked, for example did the UCI turn a “blind eye” to all this?
    Also, how can I believe in todays star riders?

    I’ve come to the conclusion that one should not get too emotional when watching professional sport and just think about it as “entertainment” only…….

    TOO MANY of my “HEROES” have let me down in the past for me to really believe them anymore.

  • Ricky

    I reckon almost all of them were on it at some point during that era so I’m not sure the need to drag it all back out into the open again some 15 years later and especially just days after a fine Tour de France has taken place. Only ensures more negative press around a sport that has come a long way since 1998 that has implemented a lot of additional testing since then and so deserves the chance at a fresh start.

    I feel bad for those that didn’t go down that slippery slope in the 90’s and 00’s, but it appears to have been a part of the culture then and it’s a fact of history that isn’t going to go away. You either enjoy it for what it was then and be glad it has now changed, or you pretend it didn’t exist and hate everyone who threw their leg over a saddle back then. I choose the former. I loved watching the Tour growing up as a kid through the 90’s. It’s a shame to know it was all chemically enhanced but it doesn’t take away the memories of enjoyment I had.

  • Richard S

    I think its fair to say every major rider of the late 90’s early 00’s era ‘doped’ via EPO and whatever else was going around; Riis, Ullrich, Virenque, Pantani, Armstrong, Cippolinni, Zabel, O’Grady, Jalabert, Zulle, Rasmussen, Dufaux, Leblanc, Olano…. it goes on forever. Correct me if I am wrong and I have missed someone obvious who didn’t, other than Boardman. I think it will go back a lot further than that too, before EPO and blood transfusions, probably before Merckx’s time. I think they were dabbling with Amphetamines and the like in the 70’s and 80’s, Laurent Fignon admitted to it, Sean Kelly was accused.

  • Steven

    will Pantani’s 98 Tour & Giro wins now be erased from the record books? somehow i can’t see it happening.

  • Richard

    It’s about time some riders started putting their hands up to admit that they didn’t dope during the EPO era.

  • Oliver

    Well, pbody, most of the people in the Tour in the nineties and noughties may well have been on drugs…but there were plenty of other people who were not prepared to go down that route, who were therefore deprived of the opportunity to show how good they really were because they could not get professional contracts. It was definitely NOT a level road.

    As for Merckx, so far as I know he pre-dated blood doping and EPO, but who knows what stimulants people were taking then?

    The truth is that the argument will never end. In my opinion some form of truth and reconciliation process would be the only way forward. Perhaps there are too many entrenched positions for that to happen, though. Maybe Brian Cookson will get something going when he takes over from Pat McQuaid.

  • pbody

    It is obvious that in order to do well in the tour you needed a good ace in the hole, EPO! Lance and his competitors all new who was doping and he did nothing different than the rest and won fair and square on a level road. If they have trouble finding cheats then maybe they should allow all riders to use EPO and quit worrying about it. It is all for entertainment, isn’t it?

  • lyndon taylor

    when are we going to see eddy merckx name up here plus others from the past

  • Peter Goodall

    What a “surprise!” Not! The problem is they are “still” held as “super champions”. Why?