Third Edition News for July 29, 1998

The drugs scandal update

TVM saga continues

The scene last night was truly bizarre. Around 18.00 (just 5 minutes after the team arrived back to the hotel after Stage 16) the area around the hotel was closed by police. On the other side of the road, the police inspectors waited until the blockade was ready and then went into the hotel. Redant and the truck driver James were then taken to the Police Station for 'administrative affairs'. They probably had to sign some official reports (that the police couldn't find anything in the truck today).

Then the four TVM riders went to hospital for urine, blood and hair tests. After one hour the last two riders (Knaven and De Jongh) arrived at the hospital too. The hospital was ringed by the media and the police had cordoned it off.

Around 22.00, the medical staff left the hospital after the tests. And at 23.30, the 6 riders are still being detained in the hospital without any support. They did not even have a massage after the tour or a wash (after the heavy climbing stage). At 23.00, an assistant in the TVM team was allowed to leave the hospital to get some drinks for the riders. A few minutes later, the assistant came out again and asked journalists to change some money so that he could get something to eat in the local shops to take back to the riders. They had not eaten since 18.00.

Joop Atmsa, President of the KNWU (Dutch Cycling Federation) commented on Dutch Radion last night: "After what I heard about this tonight, I would say it it unhumane treatment. There are several ways to test the riders. You even can do it on the hotel room. Why were they brought to a hospital? It's bizarre! It's 11.30 and they have even been taken care of after the day's racing. How can they start tomorrow? This seems to be a witch hunt by the French Judiciary. How can you play sport in these conditions?"

The French are being acccused of conducting a "witch hunt" because their own team Festina was caught red-handed. The issue is partly because French customs authorities have been instructed to stop drugs being imported in France from the more liberal north (read Netherlands). So what better scapegoat than TVM.

You would have thought that something like the President of the USA was around by the look of the security arrangement around the hospital where the TVM riders were taken. There were throngs of media reps and more than 15 policement around the hospital.

Sources within the TVM team in Albertville believe that the riders will start on Wednesday "as normal". Radio reporters have said that there will be no meeting by Tour management about the matter as there has been no official announcement by the Judiciary investigating the case.

Virenque to start in Regio Tour

Richard Virenque, has declined an invitation to race in the Critérium de Lisieux on August 3. He will instead make his return to the peloton at the Regio Tour (August 5-9) which runs through Germany, France and Switzerland. This was confirmed by the Tour Organiser, Bernard Aubril.

Pascal Herve, who wore the KOM jersey before being expelled from the Tour will have his first race after the Tour at Château-Chinon. According to Aubril, the World Champion Laurent Brochard will inform him on Wednesday of his intention to race in the Regio Tour.

Magnien and the Festina team

Emmanuel Magnien was reported as saying that there was a system of doping in the Festina team when he was contracted by them prior to moving to La Francaise des Jeux. The story was that he told this to investigators at the Court in Lille. Both Magnien and Gilles Bouvard who now rides for Casino were alleged to have given witness testimony to the court verifying that such doping was taking place when they were with the team. AFP now reports a different version from Magnien after a telephone conversation with him.

Magnien is now reported by AFP as saying: "I make a point of specifying that I never seen organised doping in the Festina team for the plain and simple reason that I never saw a rider taking drugs before my own eyes. What I said to the investigators, it is that I imagined that it did exist. When I was at Festina, I imagined it, I guessed it. But, I formally did not witness any organized doping. I cannot say yes, I know that for sure. All that is written on the sheets that the police officers typed in front of me. I rode for two years with Festina (1996 and 1997). After only 3 months I was told I would be transferred because I did not get on with Bruno Roussel. If there were any confidences within the team about doping they would not have been shared with me."