Tour de France leader Pedro Delgado of Spain tested positive for drugs last weekend and faces a 10-minute penalty that would drop him to eighth place in the cycling classic, officials said Wednesday.
Delgado, who led the Tour by a comfortable margin of 4 minutes, 6 seconds after Wednesday's 18th stage from Ruelle-sur-Touvre to Limoges, denied he had taken any illicit or other drugs during the Tour."I have never taken doping products, I have not taken any medications during the Tour," he said. "I have taken nothing. I'm waiting now for the results of a second examination to know more."
The 28-year-old Spaniard, who finished second in the Tour last year and had built up a formidable lead with only five days left in this year's race, suggested Tuesday night he could have been sabotaged by a spectator handing him a doped refreshment during a stage.
Overshadowed by the controversy was Italian Gianni Bugno's victory in the 18th stage of the Tour de France. He edged Jan Nevens of Belgium by one second at the end of the 58-mile run.
Bugno, who finished the stage in 2 hours, 12 minutes, 45 seconds, had broken away from the pack with Nevens. Martial Gayant of France was third, 44 seconds behind Bugno.
He submitted the positive result after the 13th stage last Friday, a 23.5-mile individual time trial from Grenoble to Villard-de-Lans that he won.
Jose-Miguel Echavarri, director of the Reynolds team that includes Delgado, said he had demanded a second opinion on the urinalysis that showed drug use.
If the second examination to be performed by Dr. Francois Bellocq of Paris also shows a positive result, Delgado would face an automatic penalty of 10 minutes in the overall standings. Delgado told the Spanish national radio network Wednesday he would drop out of the Tour if the second exam confirmed drug use.
That would boost Steven Rooks of Holland, now second in the standings, into the top spot.
Gert-Jan Theunisse of Holland, who was in fifth place overall beginning Wednesday's stage, was also the subject of rumors about drug use. Harry Janssen, an official of the PDM team for which Theunisse rides, refused to confirm or deny rumors about a positive drug test for the Dutch cyclist.
Though several riders have submitted positive drug tests since the institution of urinalysis in 1968 in the Tour, Delgado's result was the first time a Tour leader had tested positive.
Echavarri, who received a letter from International Cycling Union delegate Mario Prece on Wednesday morning informing him of the drug test result, read a prepared statement to reporters acknowledging Delgado's positive result and demanding the second opinion.