News for July 30, 1998

The drugs scandal update

Updates overnight in Europe

There are a lot of rumours here overnight. We have attempted to capture the headlines.

- Casino will leave the Tour this morning. Team manager Lavenu was picked up by police but released. Kim Frederiksen from Denmark tells me that he spoke to Bo Hamburgers wife late last night and she told him that Lavenu is back at the Casino hotel, but that the police have just have arrested Rodolfo Massi and taken him away to the police station. Casino riders have told the press "When Lavenu lets know what he wants we will do it. If he wants us to start, we start. Otherwise we'll leave the Tour."

- Kelme and Vitalicio Seguros are expected to leave the Tour this morning.

- Luc Leblanc has left the Tour but nothing is known about the rest of the Polti team.

- After the police investigated the hotel of ONCE, the riders were allowed to take their suitcases back.

TVM riders have told the press: "We'll fight further. Some of our people are still in jail in Reims and for them we have to keep cycling"

- Jeroen Blijlevens was glad with the solidarity in the peloton. He said: "But I respect the decision to stop by ONCE, Banesto and Riso Scotti."

- Some people are against the stoppages because they say it shows no respect for Marco Pantani in yellow.

- Rudi Tevenage told Belgium TV: "We didn't know anything before the start. We discussed our strategy in our bus, 30 minutes before the start. there was no communication about what happened the night before with TVM. Otherwise it was maybe a better idea not to start, instead of cycling along at 20 km/h. I think we have to start on Thursday, otherwise we'll regret it in a week's time. The reporter said: "It was important for Telekom to fight today, because it was one of the last changes for Ullrich and the biggest sponsor was in the car of the team manager. The answer by Tevenage: "No, what happened in the peloton today is more important than a visit by our sponsor."

- Jo Planckaert told Belgium TV: "The pill for women is more dangerous than EPO"

- The TVM soigneur whose suitcase was full of drugs in Pamiers has to remain in jail in Reims.

- the Dutch and Belgium cycling unions both protest against the way the French judiciary and police conducted the investigations into the TVM team.

- After Banesto (Beltran was number 13) left the Tour, Belgium teletext announced 'proudly' that Axel Merckx now is number 15 in the overall standings...... The Belgians, while quick to fill the shoes of a dead man, didn't get the arithmetic right - Becauase with Escartin and Massi now unlikely to start on Thursday, Merckx will be 13th.

ONCE Doctor arrested

Late this afternoon, Television Espańola have reported that the French police have arrested ONCE team's doctor Nicolas Terrados.

Leblanc quits

Former World Champion Luc Leblanc is another high profile rider to abandon the Tour de France after Stage 17 showed that racing has been eclipsed by the police handling of the drugs scandal. The police actions themselves are becoming a second scandal.

He told the press as he arrived at his hotel in Chambéry: "Tomorrow, I will not start. This morning, Jalabert did not start and I am acting in solidarity wtih him and so I will not be there tomorrow morning (Thursday)."

It is not clear if the complete Polti team will withdraw behind their leader. It seems that Leblanc would like them to follow, but the team manager Gianluigi Stanga, expressed disappointment in Leblanc's decision. He told the press: "It is a personal choice. It would have been preferable that he continued to Paris to show respect for the public and respect for the yellow jersey of Marco Pantani."

Already today ONCE, Banesto and Riso Scotti have abandoned in protest of the way the police have handled the investigation.

Other teams which have been investigated are remaining in the race. Casino, which is one team that has been under a spotlight because of their incredible improvement this season, will remain. Their manager, Vincent Lavenu said that: "I understand the decision of Laurent Jalabert. It is a courageous decision. But I do not see things like that. The race does not resemble cycling anymore. It has become surrealism." Lavenu was later taken away by police. He indicated he did not know when he would be released.

Bjarne Riis on the protest

Riis, who became the rider's spokesperson after Laurent Jalabert had abandoned, said that today's events reflected frustration by the riders of the way the police were treating the investigations. He told the press: "It is normal that the runners behaved as they did. They have the right to do this. The events have been very serious. The police went too far. This morning, I said to Jean-Marie Leblanc, if the searches go on like this the riders will not continue. If the police are still in the hotels this evening and behave as they did with TVM, then we will all go home tomorrow. We agree to answer some questions and help any enquiry. But we do not want to be treated like TVM. Everyone wants to arrive in Paris, to save the Tour and cycling. It is our life."

The Dane said he had obtained some guarantees from Jean-Marie Leblanc that any further searches would be discreet and maintain the rider's dignity.

The man with the most to lose if the Tour is abandoned, Marco Pantani expressed solidarity for the rider's protest. He said that: "It is unacceptable that the police raid my room and take me to prison for having some vitamin C. It is unjust that a sportsperson is treated like a criminal. The riders from TVM explained to me this morning that they remained up at 2am without being allowed to eat. For me, that is a violation of human rights."

Casino truck seized

Police investigators from Lille began searching the trucks of the Casino team at around 20.30. Several policemen forced the team to give them access to the vehicles used by the team in the Tour de France. The riders had returned just prior to the swoop to the hotel located on the outskirts of Chambéry.