News for October 24

French want government help to stop drugs

French cycling officials are urging the government to help them crack down on the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Three of the country's top cycling representatives -- French Federation president Daniel Baal, French Professional Cycling League president Roger Legeay and Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc -- wrote to Sports Minister Guy Drut last week calling for action ``to stop the development of forbidden practices which represent risks for the health (of cyclists).''

The letter, also sent to International Cycling Union president Hein Verbruggen, was quoted in a French Federation statement published by sports daily L'Equipe on Wednesday.

Baal, Legeay and Leblanc urged international coordination in writing new laws, conducting more tests and carrying out more research to help detect new performance-enhancing substances.

``...for some, using such substances... might have become a real temptation,'' the statement said.

French riders Jacky Durand and Thierry Laurent were banned last month from racing for eight months for failing dope tests. The French federation said later they would be allowed to compete pending an appeal.

French cycling authorities have often been criticised for refusing to disclose details of doping cases and bans. Riders have been known to be out of action for weeks for so-called injuries when actually suspended for drug taking.