Pereiro finally gets his hands on 2006 yellow jersey

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MADRID, Oct 16 (Reuters) Spaniard Oscar Pereiro finally got his hands on the 2006 Tour de France winner's yellow jersey at a special ceremony in Madrid.

Fifteen months after the race finished, the 30-year-old was officially recognised the winner after American Floyd Landis had been stripped of victory for testing positive for synthetic testosterone.

''We all wanted this story to come to an end, the wait was interminable, very frustrating and at times I thought the Tour de France had something personal against me,'' the Caisse d'Epargne rider told reporters yesterday at the headquarters of the Spanish Sports Council.

''I now realise the Tour organisers had to wait for a resolution.

This is a very important day for me and I'm not going to ruin it by thinking about any appeal.'' Landis said last Wednesday he would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport over the doping case which has also cost him a two-year ban.

Pereiro held the yellow jersey for five days but was overhauled as leader when Landis staged an incredible comeback towards the end of the race.

It later emerged his former team mate had failed a doping test but runner-up Pereiro was not awarded victory until a lengthy investigation by the American Arbitration Association ended last month.

BIGGEST TRIUMPH ''I feel sorry for him,'' said Pereiro. ''He was disqualified after the biggest triumph of his life and won't be able to enjoy it.

But as a sportsman you have to stick to the rules.'' Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme said Pereiro was the definitive winner.

''At last we have a winner. It has been too long for Oscar Pereiro, his team and for Spain and too long for the Tour de France but the story has finally come to an end,'' he said.

''You can now take your place in the hall of fame alongside your illustrious countrymen who have won the Tour.'' Pereiro is the sixth Spaniard to win the Tour after Federico Bahamontes, Luis Ocana, Pedro Delgado, Miguel Indurain and 2007 winner Alberto Contador.

Spain's sports minister Jaime Lissavetzky said Landis's disqualification was a victory in the battle against doping.

''We need to separate those who play dirty from those who play clean,'' he said. ''We have been waiting to settle a debt with Oscar Pereiro and now it has been done.

''Cycling needs to hear some good news and this is a message that will help combat some of the disappointments it has endured.'' Reuters TB DB0958

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