News for July 29, 1998

The drugs scandal update

And now Big Mat-Auber 93

The French press have reported that drugs were discovered Tuesday close to Albertville, in Savoy, during the control of a materials truck of Big Mat-Auber 93. Police have mentioned this is now a subject of further inquiry.

The press quoted a customs officer: "They are drugs in not very significant quantity, of the analyses are in hand to determine nature of it."

Monique Hugo, the prosecuting assistant in Albertville, said that the search carred out near the tollway in Fronteney, found a case containing around hundred items (drugs) of which around 10 are suspect.


Swiss rider Laurent Dufaux, who was part of the Festina Tour team, has indicated that the riders confessed because there was overwhelming evidence against them. He told Tuesday's L'Equipe that he had only taken drugs under medical supervision. He was asked whether he would take EPO in the future and he said: "Never!"

He outlined the circumstances in the police custody that he found himself in. He said: "When we returned to the police station, each one had a decision to take - to tell the truth or to deny it and plead ignorance. Laurent Brochard like Christophe Moreau, Zülle, Meier and myself, considered it was not possible, not to tell the truth. The other riders chose to handle the situation another way (by denial)."

The riders all talked after their period of custody to relate to each other the confessions made. Interestingly, Richard Virenque, the team leader, has vehemently maintained his innocence. Dufaux says of this: "Richard called me the evening after I was released. He told me he had denied any drug taking. But that is now his problem. Each of us has to live with his own conscience."

The overpowering evidence was described by Dufaux to include notebooks of Willy Voet and records kept by the Doctor, with doping details against the names of the riders. In the wake of this evidence, Dufaux said: "To continue to say that I know nothing about EPO and have never taken EPO is not credible."

He now hopes that by being honest will generate a lighter than otherwise suspension and perhaps stop the riders being charged along with the manager, soigneur and doctor of the team with criminal offences. He knows the authorities will have to make an example of them.

And what of Roussel

Bruno Roussel was released from the prison at Arras at 16.45 on Tuesday. He has been held there since July 17. He was released on bail of 50,000 FF (about $A15000), which is half of an overall guarantee imposed on 100k FF. He has to appear before the court on August 28 in Lille.

His Paris lawyer, Thibault de Montbrial, came to the prison to accompany Roussel. They did not issue any statement upon his release. Under the bail conditions, Roussel has to attend on a monthly basis the police station at Valves (Morbihan), which is where he lives. He cannot leave France and has to inform the Judge if he wishes to leave Morhiban. He is prohibited from attending the Festina HQ or any cycling activities at all. He is unable to act as a sporting director.

The Festina doctor Eric Ryckaert, also held under examination since July 17, remains imprisoned at Douai (Nord). While Roussel has admitted to systematic doping of his riders, Ryckaert maintains his denial of being any part of it.

The other person facing criminal charges, the masseur, Willy Voet was released on bail on July 24. There was a nasty confrontation between him and the other two when they met in front of the Judge. Wonder who said what to whom?

Old Festina Riders admit the practice is long-standing

Meanwhile, two former Festina riders Emmanuel Magnien (La Francaise des Jeux) and Gilles Bouvard (Casino), appeared as witnesses in Lille to give their version of the drug taking in the Festina team. They said that systematic drug taking within the team had been in place when they were with the team.

Priem held in jail for 7 days further

Cees Priem and the Russian TVM doctor are now officially under investigation for drug offences and will be held for 7 more days. They relate to the seizure of drugs in the hotel rooms and in cars used by the TVM team. Results of tests on the seized drugs will not be known until next Monday.

Priem has denied any involvement. The lawyer for Mikhailov (the doctor) issued a formal statement which said in part: "Doctor Mikhailov formally contests having administered any doping products to the riders of TVM. An evaluation of the seized substances has been called for and the results and analysis should be known next Monday,'' said Philippe Gombert.