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News for July 25, 1998
The drugs scandal updateRiders confess
On Friday morning, Swiss cyclist Armin Meier has publicly admitted that he has used EPO. The revelation however has been overtaken by more pressing matters for the organisers of the Tour de France.
Meier admitted on Frence Radio that he had told police, who are investigating the Festina scandal, that he had been using EPO. He told the interviewer: "Yes, I said that I had taken EPO, how I took it and why I took it. I'm just the victim of a system. I have told the truth, I have said what I used but I cannot speak for others because I do not know what they do. I feel better now, inside, because I have said the truth. Perhaps it is better for the sport."
Two other Festina riders have also confessed to using drugs. They are World Champion Laurant Brochard and Christophe Moreau. Together with Armin Meier they have issued a statement via their lawyer. All three were released from police custody on Thursday night in Lyon. Richard Virenque has also been released but has maintained that he has done nothing wrong.
He was one of 6 riders from Festina who were released after questioning on Friday. The assistant manager of Festina, Miguel Moreno was also released. 3 riders who were held in custody later than the others were released around 14.00 Friday. In Lille, the original Festina staff arrested, Bruno Roussel, Eric Ryckaert and Willy Voet are still in jail and have already appeared before 3 judicial sessions.
Armin Meier's revelations seem to have provoked the strike by riders. Mart Smeets (Nederland 2 Cycling Commentator) told Dutch TV news on Friday that: "An important reason for the strike is the interview with Armin Meier (just around the start of this stage). He told the reporters that he was treated like a wild animal in Lyon. All the Festina riders had to completely undress. And Alex Zulle hasn't had his glasses since he arrived in police station. The peloton is allegedly very angry about these statements!
Cees Priem, TVM manager is still being held by police in Pamiers and he is not expected to be released before Saturday. TVM were given back several suitcases with medical equipment from police in Pamiers on Friday morning. They were seized by French autorities on Thursday.
The issue was initially about the findings earlier in the year by customs police in northern France. But now it has been revealed by a French prosecutor (Friday) that a second official enquiry was being launched after officials found drugs in the hotel rooms of the TVM team during this Tour.
The prosecutor Philippe Laumone said to journalists in Reims (France) that: "It's the same kind of affair as with Festina. Some doping products and masking products were found."
Initials of Asics Riders
Yesterday, it had been reported that the syringes found in the Asics team hotel had the rider's intitials on them. Daniel Schamps who often writes for cyclingnews.com reports that it was not the syringes which had names initialled but the boxes containing the drugs. On French TV we saw a box with TUR = for Turicchia (Asics).
The riders initially refused to ride Stage 12 because they claimed that there was too much emphasis on drugs and not enough on the racing. They appointed Laurent Jalabert as their spokesperson and he told the Tour radio service that: "We are fed up with being treated like cattle. So we are going to behave like cattle. The sport is no longer interesting to anyone. We won't cycle and that's the end of it."
Tour Organiser Jean-Marie Leblanc called in team managers to resolve the strike.
In 1966, riders also went on strike after team hotels were raided by doctors. This was the first time riders had been asked to give urine samples in the Tour de France.
And the important daily newspaper in France, Le Monde carried the call in its Friday edition for the Tour to be cancelled so that authorities can clean the slate of the drug's scandal. The editorial said: Who, from now on, could rejoice in seeing the rest of a compromised pack enter Paris on Sunday, Aug. 2? Who would have the heart to applaud the winner of a race without faith or law?."
It was very tense at the start of the stage. Casino team manager said to press that: "It cannot go on like this. We want sport to prevail at last. Riders feel they have become secondary I ordered riders not to read the press or watch TV but you can't help rumours spreading. It's getting on everybody's nerves. We're not criminals."
Another to speak to the press was TVM's stage winner Jeroen Blijlevens. He said: "It is very annoying, very difficult...I want to concentrate on the race and forget about all this."