News for September 12, 1998

Contracts and Transfers

* Koen Beeckman (Ipso) and Manu L'Hoir (neo) will ride for Lotto next year.

* Colombian Victor-Hugo Pena (Avianca-Telekom) will ride for Vitalicio next year.

Drugs Update

Cofidis now busted

French customs officials discovered illegal drugs in the van of the Cofidis cycling team the day before. The drugs were found in the bags of riders in the town of Thonon-les-Bains (which is on the Swiss-France border). Earlier this week, another Cofidis rider left the Vuelta amidst a drug scandal (Philippe Gaumont).

The discovery has led to and enquiry being set up by the Criminal Investigation Department. Cofidis have reacted quickly to clarify the basis of the discovery. They said their were only 5 boxes of "prescribed" drugs found which involved only 3 people, 2 riders and a trainee rider.

The truck of the Cofidis team, which is currently riding in the Tour de l'Avenir has been seized by the customs officials at the douane at Nangy (on the A40) near to Annemasse (Haute-Savoie). The officials said they found small quantities of drugs which are on the banned list in bags belonging to members of the Cofidis team. They seized the products and notified the judiciary in Thonon-les-Bains.

The police in Chambéry, where the team was staying, searched their hotel but failed to find any further drugs.

It appears at this early stage that the drugs found in the truck are Ventoline and Syncortyl. This has led the manager of the team, Francis Vanlondersel to claim that the customs do not know the difference between "doping products" and " drugs used for asthma". He told the press at the end of Stage 8 (at Saint-Pierre de Chartreuse): "We have riders who have therapeutic documents proving they need treatment for asthma. A sportsman is like anyone, and has the same sorts of health problems as anyone."

The Cofidis team believes that the authorities are "too eager" to find anything that they can use to harm the team. They issued a statement describing exactly which drugs were found - Syncortyl, Ventoline, Ensapente. Their statement said that Cofidis does not support doping and the recent sacking of their former leader, Italian Francesco Casagrande (after he was suspended for 6 months for two positive tests), was cited as evidence of their vigilance.

Doctor to resign

France has just created a high-level group to develop policies to rid sport of chronic drugs usage. However, a doctor who was seconded to the commission is under pressure to resign because he allegedly supplied banned substance to a rider during the 1997 Tour de France. The doctor, named as Armand Megret supplied Diprostene and Decadron to the unnamed rider.

The resignation offer by Megret will be discussed at the commission's first meeting on September 15. So before they get to the riders they have to sort out the officials.

Virenque to sue

Richard Virenque has demanded that his lawyer Maître Gilbert Collard pursue defamatory proceedings against Daniel Baal, President of the French Cycling Federation (FFC) after remarks attributed to Baal which were published during the week. On Thursday, Daniel Baal said the Festina rider had threatened to "dirty Baal personally". According the reports, Virenque was alleged to have rung Baal on the telephone and said "I will dirty you. I have things against you." There was a hint that Baal, himself had been involved in drugs 20 years ago. Evidently, the alleged threats were made after Baal announced the disciplinary proceedings against Virenque and the other French Festina riders.

Baal is also alleged to have said that Virenque threatened to bankrupt the Federation. Virenque has issued a statement on Friday denying all of the allegations.

3 Monthly tests in 1999

Riders will undergo health tests every 3 months from 1999 if they wish to retain their licences to race. UCI President Hein Verbruggen announced this during a short visit to the Vuelta. The periodical controls by accredited doctors will be one of the central new policies against doping.

While in Spain, Verbruggen spoke to the team leader of ONCE. Team leader Laurent Jalabert had made critical comments about the UCI in the Spanish paper Marca. He said that the UCI were behaving like "neo-nazis". Verbruggen said that there were no sanctions for speaking out.

Dutch Women's Team for Worlds

The provisional Dutch women-selection for the World Championships Valkenburg (6 riders for the road and 3 riders for the ITT): Chantal Beltman (Slagharen), Meike de Bruijn (Amsterdam), Yvonne Brunen (Swifterbant), Mirjam Melchers (Gendt), Jenita Hulzebosch-Smit (Gramsbergen), Nicole Vermast (Amstelveen), Elsbeth Vink (Wijk en Aalburg) and Leontien Zijlaard-Van Moorsel (Rotterdam).

The final selection will be announced on September 22.