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Cycling News and Analysis

News for October 4, 1998

Drugs Update

Marc Madiot released

Marc Madiot, two-time Paris-Roubaix winner and now the manager of La Francaise des Jeux, was released by the French police after being detained for 24 hours on Thursday. He was held at Lille, the centre of the major Festina investigation. He made various admissions to the police including that he realised that his riders were using drugs but that he had personally closed his eyes to it - it was not his business he said. He had told his riders that if they were caught then they would be thrown out of the team.

He was released because the police accepted that he had neither given nor encouraged his riders to take drugs.

The prosecuting-assistant to the court of Lille, Gerald Vinsonneau, said that he had been released because he had satisfied the judge that he had never proposed, managed, or even facilitated the use of illicit substances by his riders. The court considered that there was not any organised system of drug use in La Francaise des Jeux as had occurred in Festina.

Vinsonneau did say however that: "Marc Madiot knew that some of his riders were using banned drugs. He did not wish to organise the doping and closed his eyes to it. He had even bought hardware which was used to monitor the hematocrit levels in his riders and had told them that if they were ever to test positive then they would be excluded from the team."

Madiot told a recent press conference, after he had been questioned on July 29 in Chambéry during the Tour de France, that: "If there is doping then I have nothing to do with it. Doping in my team is not organized. Some of my riders have their own personal doctor. This is why we equipped ourselves with a centrifugal machine, in order to conduct our own blood tests."

Madiot was called to the court in Lille after declarations by several riders, in particular after those of Emmanuel Magnien and Christophe Mengin.

Virenque

The court in Lille is anticipating a busy time over the next few weeks. The next major figure to be called before it is Richard Virenque. They will also be interrogating several team doctors including the Festina doctor, Dr. Rimenez (Spain), Daniele Tarsi (Casino), José Aramendi (ONCE). Patrick Valcke, the old manager of the Stephen Roche will also be called.

Valcke has told the press that he is ready to tell the judge what he knows about drug usage in the peloton and that it "does not back to only yesterday." He commented on Richard Virenque's continued denial of any wrong-doing and said that it was in his "regrettable file". He said that if Virenque would not be able to look him in the eyes (the "white of his eyes") and say directly that he had never taken drug.

Willy Voet continues to make revelations

The "black notebooks of doping" are continuing to be opened. Willy Voet, the former Festina soigneur has told L'Equipe about several more aspects of the organised drug taking in Festina. He has outlined in fine detail what went on. He was imprisoned for 16 days before being freed on bail. He is now talking rather freely about his role in the Festina scandal.

According to Willy Voet, the organisation of doping goes back to the beginning of the 1994 season - the second year of the team directed by Bruno Roussel. Voet also said that Charly Mottet, then the leader of the RMO team was clean.

He said: "Certain riders were making their own private arrangements with their doctors to take drugs. This is why Bruno (Roussel) said to them that it had to stop. Rather than to let the guys perforate their skin like savages, he preferred to structure the drug usage so that they did not go to the mortuary."

L'Equipe asked him if all the riders were using drugs. He said: "Almost all. Let us say 80 percent of the team. They could not really do anything else. It was a system that implemented from the top."

Is it possible that people high up in Festina were unaware of the system of drugs? Willy Voet replied that it was not.

And what of Pascal Herve and Richard Virenque, the only riders of the Festina Tour team who have denied in their depositions to the court that they had taken any drugs. Who were the large users? Voet said: "Pascal Herve. Richard Virenque was not far behind."

Voet is obviously hurt by the statements of Virenque, who he served as personal soigneur. He said: "Once I was in the prison, I saw on television that Virenque was describing me as a drug dealer, a small-time trafficker who sold drugs to other teams. All I can say is never, never!"

He also said that he had initially denied any involvement in the affair when he was arrested. For two days he resisted. But he said that Bruno Roussel: "Immediately took responsability and explained to police how the doping had occurred. Not so Dr. Ryckaert who is continuing in his denial."

Voet said that he had given his lawyer several notebooks which detail the operations over several years. He says they document the riders and what they were taking.

He finished the interview by saying he had been offered a million francs for them from an American publisher.