News for May 11, 1999

Hein Verbruggen in custody

UCI President Hein Verbruggen was being held in custody at police headquarters in Lille and questioned over the Festina affair.

But police sources said that he would not be placed under official investigation but would be required to account for the UCI reaction to the doping scandal.

Also in town (Lille) to meet Judge Patrick Keil are several former Festina personalities. The tactics seem to be to force the players to contradict each other. Today, Keil will interview ex-manager Bruno Roussel, former soigneur Willy Voet, and former top rider Richard Virenque.

Voet says that Virenque took drugs and Virenque denies it.

Dr. Mabuse!

The investigations started during last year's Tour de France. On Thursday and Friday of last week they culminated in a large bust in Paris and environs where the investigation is now being narrowed and concentrated on a sport's lawyer and a horse trainer, both who are now being suspected of masterminding a large scale sport's doping ring.

Once again, the professional cycling peloton is being implicated as supplying the demand for these nefarious doping businesses. Two known riders were accused of using banned drugs. Philippe Gaumont (Cofidis) and Yvon Ledanois (La Française des Jeux) were detained for two nights while police and a special magistrate questioned them. A former professional rider Pascal Peyramaure was also roped in by the cops.

After a mad media frenzy over the weekend, which tried to implicate Belgian Frank Vandenbroucke in the business, facts are now becoming more clear.

The two alleged central figures are Bertrand Lavelot, a sport's attorney who works with many of the leading riders on contractual issues, and Bernard Sainz, who is being labelled by the French press as a type of Dr Mabuse (from voodoo fame!). The judiciary appear to be alleging that the two of them are central to the organisation and distribution of banned substances among sportspeople, especially professional riders.

On Thursday afternoon, the police took 15 leading French sport's identities into custody. Ten of the 15 apparently admitted using drugs.

According to the Paris newspaper L'Equipe, Vandenbroucke said he had used drugs because he would not have been able to have ridden Paris-Roubaix without them. Even the French court has denied he said this to them. Beat up!

On Thursday, Dr. Mabuse was arrested for supplying drugs to the Raphael Martinez, the brother of the MTB world champion Miguel Martinez. At the same time, the police raided the office of Bertrand Lavelot in the Paris suburb of Asnières. In his office they found drugs, masking substances, money and manuals for drugs use. Also on his computer they found interesting address lists. There were many addresses of French cyclists.

To understand what happened last week, we have to go back to the Festina busts during the Tour de France last year. That is when the investigation began. The Paris narcotics squad began focusing on Dr Mabuse and Lavelot. The police taped their phone calls over a period of several weeks. Lavelot, now the chief suspect was the lawyer for Richard Virenque. The police also dragged in Virenque's brother Lionel last Thursday.

The police now think this affair is bigger than the Festina-TVM business. They thing that the two are principal financiers for a large-scale drugs business. Bertrand Lavelot, a life-long cycling fan and former amateur rider for CSM Puteaux, has a number of riders involved in the drugs business. He is the lawyer for Casino and Cofidis and has a number of clients in the La Française des Jeux team. He also was the lawyer for Cees Priem and Jan Moors in their dealings with the French judiciary which are on-going.

He was in close contact with 'Dr Mabuse', Bernard Sainz, for several years. Sainz is a horse trainer and worked in the professional peloton as a medical adviser for 30 years. He is well respected by many riders for his treatments. Recently his activities were described by Erwann Menthéour in his revealing book "Sécret defonce". Menthéour wrote about the day he was caught with a hematocriet level of 57% after sustained EPO use. He said: "Dr Mabuse called me and asked 'why didn't you call me before you went to the drugs test. Here drink this.' And he gave me a glass of water with three spoons of salt with something out of a mysterious bottle. After that he went - with a notary - to the laboratory. My hematocriet level had dropped to 47.7!

Lance Armstrong Interview

Lance Armstrong was interviewed by De Volkskrant in the Netherlands. He are some excerpts. He said that "In the past he used to like the Amstel Gold race because the next day he would fly back to the US. Now he's married, has a home in Nice and loves this more regular life. It's beneficial for his cycling career. He expected to ride well in the Amstel Gold Race but he actually rode better than he had expected. He was not happy with the way that he lost. He said he started the sprint far too early and should have made Boogerd take the initiative.

He is now going back to the US for the big end of May event - the Ride of the Roses. This is a major fundraising event. This year Spaniard Miguel Indurain and Greg Lemond will be riding. He was asked how things compared now to the time Lemond was dominating the Tour. He said that the standard is higher now.

Is it true that he is targetting the GC in this year's Tour de France?

He said that he was serious about his quest for the maillot jeune. He was stimulated by his near-podium finish in last year's Vuelta (4th) and decided to try to go for a big finish in the Tour. He has been studying the stages, especially those in the mountains. He has already ridden over the stages in the Pyrenees and he has plans to do the ITT parcours around Metz and later the stages in the Alps. In previous tours he has only wanted to win a stage or two. This year he is aiming to go all the way. He plans to use the Dauphine Libere and the Route du Sud as his finishing off races.

What about the doping scandals?

He is not particularly forthcoming about the issue but believes that the sport will overcome the problems. He said that the crowd reaction at Paris-Roubaix and the Amstel Gold Race was tremendous ... like nothing he has seen before. But now he says that every time he races in France now he expects to see police raids.

Weekend Roundup from Europe

Netherlands, Zwanenburg. Ronde van de Haarlemmermeer, Club Competition:

1. Mourice (Ouderkerk a/d Amstel) 175 km in 3.35.10, 2. Rutte
(Haarlemmerliede), 3. Jacobs (Nes a/d Amstel), 4. Nederlof (Oostvoorne)
0.40, 5. Van Dijk (Spijkenisse).

Netherlands, Nieuw-Amsterdam. Omloop van het Zuidenveld:

1. Ter Schure (Rheeze) 180 km in 4.14.10, 2. Van der Reep (Lisse) 0.10, 3.
Vonk (Nieuwe Pekela) 0.15, 4. Engels (Breda), Jansen (Delft).

Belgium, Fleurus, Omloop van Henegouwen, Neo-professionals:

1. Duijn (Ned) 173 km in 4.19.00, 2. Wegmann (Dui) 0.21, 3. Leukemans (Bel)
0.38, 12. Veneberg 0.42, 19. Schep, 0.51, 22. Louwers 1.06.

St. Wendel, World Cup MTB, Cross Country:

Men: 1. Meirhaege (Bel), 2. Van Dooren (Ned), 3. Martinez (Fra), 16.
Brentjens, 23. Tolhoek, 74. Van Mil, 78. Wevers.

Current Standings:

 1. Cadel Evans (Aus)    721
 2. Martinez             585
 3. Van Dooren           495
12. Brentjens 256.

Women: 1. Pezzo (Ita), 2. Sydor (Can), 3. Dahle (Noo), 29. Dorland, 50.

Current Standings:

 1. Sydor                830
 2. Dahle                710
 3. Dunlap (USA)         540