AURILLAC, France — Tour de France rider Manuel Beltran has been taken away by French police after testing positive for EPO.

Liquigas cycling team spokesman Paolo Barbieri said Beltran was taken from the team hotel, and police are searching the team's rooms.

The veteran Spanish rider was kicked out of the Tour after testing positive following the first stage on July 5.

"There are not just traces of EPO, there is EPO," Pierre Bordry, leader of the French anti-doping agency, told The Associated Press by telephone on Friday. "Whether there is a lot or a little, EPO is forbidden."

Bordry said Beltran had been targeted after his "parameters were abnormal" in the pre-Tour blood testing July 3-4.

"Yes, ... that was why he was tested on Saturday (July 5)," Bordry said.

He said other cyclists with "suspicious" parameters from the pre-Tour tests also had been targeted, but he would not say who they are.

Beltran has been suspended from the team, and if a second backup sample also tests positive, Beltran will be fired.

The rest of the team is expected to continue in the three-week race.

A strong climber, Beltran helped Lance Armstrong win the Tour in 2003, 2004 and 2005, often pulling the Texan up the steep climbs.

Beltran is the fourth former Armstrong teammate to test positive for doping; the others were Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton and Roberto Heras.

The Tour was devastated by doping scandals last year, when pre-race favorite Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan tested positive for blood doping, Spaniard Iban Mayo was busted for using EPO, and race leader Michael Rasmussen was kicked out just days before the end for lying about his whereabouts to avoid pre-Tour drug tests.

And in the 2006 Tour, American Floyd Landis tested positive for synthetic testosterone after a spectacular comeback ride that set the stage for his victory. He later was stripped of the title after a long court battle.

None are riding in this year's Tour.

Race organizers had pledged a harder approach to combatting drug cheats at this year's Tour, with eight specially trained chaperones shadowing riders after each stage, even climbing onto team buses, to ensure riders went to post-stage anti-doping checks.