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Troubles Mount for Tour de France

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Unidentified Man: (French spoken)

(SOUNDBITE OF FRENCH TV NEWS)

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: While not actually caught by a drug test, Rasmussen had been under heavy suspicion for failing to report his whereabouts to drug authorities during pre- Tour training. In the middle of the night, his team held a press conference to explain why Rasmussen had been fired in the end.

NICO VERHOEVEN: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Cycling officials were clearly reeling from the pace of the dismissals. Jean- Francois Lamour, head of the World Anti-Doping Agency, took to the airwaves to defend the tour.

JEAN: (Through Translator): There are cyclists who do their job and train in transparency, and we have to have to have confidence in them. But I can't hide my worry that there will be others who will try to kill this wonderful sport.

BEARDSLEY: But cycling writer Barnaby Chesterman says this year's race is no different from any other. Performance-enhancing drugs have been a well-known secret for 30 years, he says. It's just that race organizers are finally waking up to it.

BARNABY CHESTERMAN: Unidentified Man: (French spoken)

BEARDSLEY: Up until Rasmussen's dismissal, race organizers stood by their claim that the expulsions proved to their heightened checks and drug tests were working. Tour Director Christian Prudhomme issued a warning yesterday to those still in the race.

CHRISTIAN PRUDHOMME: (Through translator) I would like to say to those who haven't quite understood that they are playing Russian roulette, and they'd better get that through their head.

BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

MONTAGNE: You can follow the Tour route through an interactive map and read more about the top contenders going to npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.