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  Cipollini Wins Tour de France Stage

By Salvatore Zanca
Associated Press Writer
Friday, July 17, 1998; 6:21 p.m. EDT

BRIVE-LA GAILLARDE, France (AP) — Mario Cipollini scored his second straight stage victory in the Tour de France on Friday as the cyclists competed for attention with a drug scandal that claimed the Festina team.

The Festina team was kicked out of the Tour Friday and team director Bruno Roussel was placed under investigation for importing prohibited substances, among other things.

The Festina doctor, Eric Ryckaert, also was placed under investigation for importing and circulating prohibited merchandise.

Both have been in custody since Wednesday after police found a cache of performance-enhancing drugs in the team masseur's car.

The masseur was placed under investigation — a step short of being charged — earlier this week.

In a statement read by Roussel's lawyer, Thibault de Montbrial, the team director admitted to a ``concerted'' practice of providing cyclists with doping products. He said doctors, masseurs and cyclists were involved.

``The object was to optimize performances under strict medical control,'' the statement said, ``in order to avoid cyclists personally and uncontrollably supplying themselves under conditions that could be bad for their health.''

Prosecutor Jean-Philippe Joubert said Festina cyclists would be questioned as witnesses.

Michel Gros, who replaced Roussel, said that Festina is a scapegoat in the cycling world where doping, he claimed, is common practice.

A rider denied the charges.

`I never took any EPO or any other prohibitive products. I only took products for recuperation, '' Pascal Herve, a member of the Festina team, said from Varetz, where the team was staying Friday night.

EPO is a substance that allows the better transport of oxygen within the blood stream.

Australian Stuart O'Grady added two seconds to his overall lead Friday while American George Hincapie held to second place going into Saturday's 36-mile time trial from Meyrignac-L'Eglise to Correze.

Cipollini won the 127-mile run from La Chatre to Brive-La Gaillarde in 5 hours, 5 minutes, 32 seconds.

Friday's stage was almost a repeat of Thursday's race with an early attack followed by a final mass sprint that Cipollini won. Second this time was Nicola Minali, another Italian, with Czech Jan Svorada third.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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