Special Festina Roundup
Thursday - Before the RevelationsThe Festina manager and main doctor were still being detained by French police and were going to be taken to Lille for possible prosecution. Willy Voet, the team soigneur who was caught with an enormous quantity of performance-enhancing drugs last week is being held there. Radio France has reported that manager Bruno Roussel and doctor Eric Ryckaert, held in custody since the Tour arrived back in France, were taken out of Cholet in police cars, heading for Lille.
The UCI revoked Roussel's cycling licence because he had failed to respond adequately to the enquiries made of him by the French Cycling Federation. However, Tour director Jean-Marie LeBlanc denied that this was sufficient reason for expelling the entire Festina team from the Tour. He said the events had occurred beyond the Tour and that the riders would remain in the Tour. Meanwhile, the doctor Eric Ryckaert in an interview with L'Equipe said he destroyed by the allegation. In a rather odd statement he said: My wife knows me, and she knows that everything they are saying about me is a serious lie." Indeed!
Even the French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said he was observing the events "with sadness - but not total surprise - the news that people without scruples wanted to give cyclists, and surely did, forbidden doping products, difficult or impossible to detect, and at the same time certainly very dangerous for athletes' health."
Many doctors had commented that the scandal was no surprise at all. A former doctor of the Bic cycling team, Dr. Guy Zerhat said on France 3 TV: "This Festina affair doesn't surprise me at all. I am happy it is breaking out today, in everyone's interest, beginning with the cyclists themselves. I saw horrible things. I saw boys inject themselves during the race.
One of the alleged banned substances was PFC or perfluorocarbon. Perfluorocarbon (PFC) emulsions are infusion gas-transporting media and are usually called the artificial blood. It can help providing oxygene to tissues under surgery. Pulmonary side effects, however were observed in the first American patient receiving it. It sems that complement activation is the problem.
Rather logical it has been tried to cyclists who need oxygen in their muscles. Continuous use of PFC is of-course different and with other side effects like embolisms (blood clots). PFC can probably be detected by mass spectrometry, if the method is sensitive enough.
Mauro Gianetti (La Francaise des Jeux) who had to give up the Tour of the Romandie earlier this year because of what was then identified as a gastro entritis collapsed actually because he was alleged to have taken a shot of Perfluorcarbon (PFC). Dr. Gerald Grémion works at the University hospital of Lusanne, Switzerland, where Gianetti had spent 2 weeks (several days in intensive care).
On Thursday Gremion told a Swiss radio station: "the professional cyclist Mauro Gianetti almost died at the time of the Tour of Romandie. Probably following an injection of PFC." Dr. Gremion had been in the news earlier as he had said 99 percent of all riders were taking drugs.
PFC is an artificial carrier of oxygen. According to Dr. Lothar Heinrich, team doctor of Telekom, PFC has only been tested in animal experiments and that taking PFC would be "very dangerous". Heinrich continued: "(PFC) wouldn't help to bring riders over mountains, it brings them rather under the ground."
On French-language Swiss TV TSR, Dr Gremion admitted he "exaggerated his remarks" when he was commenting that 99% of all riders took drugs. He continued though that: "this figure is closer to reality than 1 or 2%" that are officially declared "as positive" each year. Gremion also said he didn't learn of the PCF/Gianetti connection "by medical sources but rather by chance". One should add that Dr. Gremion was the team doctor of the GS II team "Post Swiss" until last year.
Festina riders before the revelation
Richard Virenque, Laurent Dufaux, and Laurent Brochard, called for a press conference, before the start of the Cholet stage to assure everyone that the team would not withdraw from the Tour, even if their sport director remains detained and now without a license. Virenque was the first to talk and said that he spoke in the "name of all the riders" and assured that they were going to "give their maximum to show that they are not related to this matter". We have come here to win the Tour and we are not going to leave". The French rider added that they didn't want to talk about it anymore: "Please allow to concentrate in the race. From now on, none of us will say anything more about this matter. We will be thrilled to answer any questions about the competition".
His teammate Laurent Dufaux said that the best answer that the Festina riders could give was "to give it all at this Tour" and admitted that the whole team is "very hurt". "We all have family and friends and we don't like to be treated like if we were criminals".
Frenchman Brochard, current World Champion, closed the press conference: "We want to show that we are innocent and just like we have had great wins in other races and we have never tested positive, we are going to try to win the yellow jersey. Even from the worse things, one can draw positive conclusions and our conclusion is that our fans are behind us".
A new Tour manager for Festina
Miguel Moreno joined yesterday the Tour de France to take over the position of Bruno Roussel. The Spanish sport director will share responsibility with Frenchman Michel Gross. "It doesn't matter who the first director will be" commented Moreno. "I'm not here to show off. I have been called to do a psychological job with the riders and the rest of the team. To try to bring peace to everyone".
Moreno showed that he was upset with Roger Legeay, president of the sport director's association, who even suggested that Festina should withdraw from the race. "Legeay has no morale to speak. There is nobody here that can go to receive Holy Communion dressed in white", assured referring to the fact that nobody is clean about the doping matter. "I don't know why Legeay gets involved in these crusades. This looks like Duck Hunting season. The bad ones are above and the good ones are shooting from below. But whoever is free from guilt, let them take the first shot".
After the RevelationsJean-Marie Leblanc announced at a press conference at 23.00 in the Tour de France that he had expelled the entire Festina team from the Tour in consulation with the UCI. Festina is expelled under article 29 which freely translated says: "it is not permitted to damage the ethics and morality of the Tour de France."
The declaration by Festina's Roussel that the they used "dope in an organized way" is a confesssion, Leblanc said.
See Stage 6 reports in the Tour for a more complete version of what Roussel's lawyer said. The statement indicated that "it was a coordinated use of products - under medical supervision - by the team leaders, the doctors, the soigneurs and the riders"
Team doctor Eric Ryckaert should have said that he has nothing to do with the affair. The riders take the dope t their own risk.... In his statement he denied everything. He said: Willy Voet worked on his own, ordered the products and transport it to France. His lawyer said: "He knows that it has been happening in the peloton. All the team doctors know that. But Mr. Voet had enough in the car for the entire peloton.
Belgian TV has said it is "the tip of a iceberg. Its now official that riders use drugs." Some reporters are now saying they have known about it for years but could never prove it. They point to photos of a key Festina rider 5 years ago. Now his face has changed and if you look close at his hands and fingers - their colour has changed - they allege there is something strange about the colour of his blood. The indications are now that there will be a number of public revelations in the next few days. A notable ex-pro from France has told French TV (20.00 on Friday night) that "all the riders in the Tour use dope."
German TV said: "Hopefully the discussion about dope will disappear now in the Tour de France." Are they worried that Telekom might be involved?
German ZDF said: "It's now proven that Festina drugged their riders. Roussel now can go to jail for several years. The ITT on Saturday will be without some of the key riders: Zulle, Dufaux and Moreau."
Theo de Rooy (Rabobank) said on Dutch TV: "It's a dramatic day in cycling history. This tour de france will be a historical tour for the future. The first tour with a penalty for the number 1 team of the world. What shall the sponsors say of all the cycling teams? It's a shock for everybody. The damage is great for the cycling. It's a dark shadow over our cycling world and it will take time for rehabilitate. My first reaction (I heard it 25 minutes ago) is: let's start tomorrow to repair the image of our sport.