The next day....On his way from Havana to the Netherlands, Dutch radio called Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the UCI while he was in Madrid. He said: "The Festina case is the greatest scandal in 100 years of cycling history. It's a heavy blow and we have to try to come back and learn from this affair and do it better in the future. This criminal work in a cycling team is terrible. I'm glad the judicial authorities in France are doing this investigation. The UCI can't do that on our own." Verbruggen will go to the Tour de France on Monday. "I had daily contact by phone with Leblanc. They don't need me there. So that's the reason i didn't came back urgently from Havana."
And now TVM
It has now been revealed that in March, French customs officials seized a stash of banned drugs from a TVM car near to Reims in north-east France. It was following the GP Valencia and the car was being driven by TVM mechanics who were not arrested. Priem said at a press conference that the Team had kept it secret but denied that the quantity was around 100 doses. He told the press that the quantity was "much less" and then outlined a theory that they got there because some other group or person was trying to damage the reputation of the Team.
Cees Priem held the press conference for around 20 Dutch journalists. It took more than one hour for explaining everything and anything. Noted Dutch TV cycling journalist Mart Smeet commented afterwards: "The story came piece by piece. Cees Priem had to often do retakes on his words because he didn't have a clear story. He told us his team is completely innocent and he will talk with Leblanc tonight. But I think there can be no consequences in this Tour for the TVM team because this case is from March and has nothing to do with the Tour de France." Oh yeh!
The French daily 'Aujourdhui' reported today: "On March 4, 1998, the police found EPO (104 ampules) in a truck of TVM in the neigbourhood of Reims after a customs check. The judicial authorities in Reims didn't make the case a priority."
Priem said later on Dutch radio: "It wasn't our stuff that the Custums found in our truck in March. I don't even know exactly what they found. Somebody else put it in our truck. We don't know who it was. But TVM has nothing to do with it. The investigation is still there. The truck came back from Spain."
TVM rider Steven de Jongh after his time trial said: "Of course we knew about the case in March. Shortly after that moment all the riders were invited by team manager Priem to a meeting. He said to us that if we find anybody on our team who is involved with drugs they will be thrown out of the team immediately. Priem said he didn't know how the dope came in our truck."
Director and headsponsor TVM, Arjan Bos, in a radio-interview: "I had a call last night. Cees Priem told me the news came public. It was the first time I heard about the affair in March. I believe the TVM team is clean. We work with good people like Jan Raas and Cees Priem. And it's forbidden to use dope. You work with people, you have to take care for them.'
Hein Verbruggen, chairman of the UCI (called by Dutch radio in Madrid - on his way back from Havana) was asked: "Did they found epo in a truck of TVM in March? He replied: "It's the first time i hear about it."
The rumours about a TVM rider not being allowed to start in the ITT were incorrect as all TVM riders started.
The name of the rider who appeared on French TV last night was Mentheour. He said: "I used dope in my active years - just like all the other riders." And he said that the current riders and authorities should stop being hypocritical about the use of dope.
Announcement by Michael Gros, the replacer of Roussel: "We did what all the big teams do."
Neutral medical staff?
Someone asked me while we were away racing yesterday what I would do to solve the dope use in cycling. I said either legalise it or make sure that medical staff to teams are appointed by the UCI and are employees of the UCI. And attach heavy prison sentences to UCI officials.
Bernard Hinault and Mineral Water
Bernard Hinault who won the Tour 5 times and is now employed by the Tour Organisation claimed that you did not need drugs to win the Tour. He told the press that: "There will always be donkeys who want to become race horses. But you can win the Tour on mineral water. I hope it will have positive consequences. For the first time, people are going to be sentenced. In the past, only riders were tested and banned, now the ones who provide the dope will pay. There will be before and after the Festina case, but the Tour will survive because the public will react."
As expected, he denied ever using drugs himself despite admitting they had been offered to him. "If you're strong enough to say no the first time around, they will not come back to you. And I was not a donkey."