Source AP ©

Tour de France riders stage protest

Tour de France riders staged a silent protest at the start of Wednesday's 16th stage to demonstrate their anger over repeated doping scandals.

The protest came a day after star rider Alexandre Vinokourov and his Astana team were sent home after he tested positive for a banned blood transfusion.

On Wednesday, the pack of riders split into two groups between those who took the start as normal - including controversial race leader Michael Rasmussen - and those who protested by hanging back for a few minutes.

Dozens of riders were involved in the symbolic protest, many from French teams that have long complained that doping is ruining the sport.

"We're fed up," French rider Ludovic Turpin told Eurosport television.

Fans booed Rasmussen at the start. The Dane is under a cloud of suspicion because he skipped doping tests before the Tour began.

The protest contributed to a 13-minute delay to the scheduled start time of Wednesday's stage, the last in the Pyrenees. The race ends Sunday.

Tour organizers announced that 14 riders were subjected to blood tests early Wednesday. They were from French teams Cofidis and AG2R. The tests were all negative.

In all, 225 blood tests have been conducted so far at the three-week race. Of those, just one - for Vinokourov - was positive.