News for July 26, 1998

The drugs scandal update

Le Monde and the Anonymous rider

In Rheims a new investigation is now underway into the discovery in March of drugs in a TVM vehicle. The manager Cees Priem and the Russian doctor are in jail over the matter. As yet unspecified drugs were seized with Russian packaging from the team hotel during the Tour de France this week. In addition, 5 riders from Festina who were questioned by police in Lyon have admitted to having taken EPO. In Lille, Bruno Roussel (team manager), team doctor Eric Rykaert and the soigneur, Belgian Willy Voet have begun explaining to authorities the way in which the drugs were procured and used within Festina. According to their lawyer the three have notebooks which prove that other teams in the peloton are also involved in the smuggling racket and the systematic doping of their riders.

However, despite all of this, the Tour goes on and the organisers are intent on seeing it finish. On Friday, a revolt by riders occurred which delayed things for 2 hours. The flareup came after a report on France 2, showing a dustbin containing drugs used by certain participants. The riders claimed that this was a beat up and they were being treated as criminals. They said the media was more concerned with the doping instead of the race. But, isn't the race intrinsically tied up with the doping?

The influential French daily, Le Monde which on Friday called for the Tour to be stopped, published a confession from an anonymous professional rider today. The rider declared that his medical bills alone for drugs had cost around $A125,000 (or around $US100,000). The amount of 600,000 FF was quoted. The individual's doping was organised by the team. He said: "There is not one team manager, team doctor, masseur, racing organiser who is not aware of the doping." He backed up his claims with documents covering a daily dossier of a doctor.

The rider outlined the scheme of drug taking: three steroid tablets in the morning, and an injection of testosterone once a week. And regular EPO injections in increasing does until the maximum of 4000 units is reached. And there were other forbidden substances taken including Human Growth Hormones. The regimen of drug taking was supervised by a private doctor, and was supplemented with a training program specified by cadence.

It is also believed that Richard Virenque may be making a statement soon regarding his involvement. So far he has issued blanket denials.

Alex Zulle has also indicated that he is considering retiring from the sport following his part in the affair.

Meanwhile, Jan Ullrich's coach Peter Becker yesterday told Berlin nfo Radio that "the Telekom rider is not into doping. With doping the rider is not healthy. Ullrich wants to remain healthy and wants to have some healthy sones. Also I have my ethics - a healthy spirit in a healthy body." Becker has said he wants life bans introduced for riders who are caught. He also denied that coaches or authorities in East Germany had "ever obliged any participant in a sport to take one pill or whatever of a prohibited product."

Riders meet with Officials

After a meeting on Saturday evening between riders and officials, it was decided to continue the Tour de France and have an end of the season crisis summit to clean up the entertainment...sorry, sport.

The team leaders met with French Cycling Federation CEO Daniel Baal, who is also deputy to Hein Verbruggen at the UCI. The conclusion from Baal was that: "There is no reason why the Tour should not go on. The Tour is not about doping. Let sport prevail. For the rest, be sure that the UCI will show total determination to solve cycling problems. We agreed with riders, doctors, team directors, to meet at the end of the season. It would not have been wise to meet in the middle of a crisis."

The end-of-season meeting will develop new measures to fight doping. The riders have also asked that the calendar be changed and less races offered.

The French cast their vote

The French newspaper France-Soir conducted an opinion poll as to whether the Tour should continue. 57 per cent of responses wanted the Tour to continue. However, the editorial came in behind Friday's Le Monde call for the Tour to be stopped. The editorial said: "The Tour should be stopped for its honour and its future. Stopping the Tour today so that it can start again next year on a new basis would have the advantage of ending this period of suspicion."

Djamolidine Abdoesjaparov goes to judge

The ex-Lotto rider (he used two forbidden products in the Tour de France of last year) has sued the sponsor Nationale Loterij for his salary from 1997. He was fired on the spot by his sponsor who refused to pay out his contract.