News Flash for October 24, 2000

Festina: Day 2 - Virenque cracks

Richard Virenque
Photo: © AFP

After steadfastly denying he had taken doping products for the past two years, French cyclist Richard Virenque finally relented to the constant questioning and admitted he had indeed been aware that he was being doped while he was with Festina.

The breakthrough came on the second day of the "Festina trial " in Lille. France. Daniel Delegrove, prosecutor of the magistrate's court, once again grilled Virenque on doping and this time he got the answer he wanted. "Did you take doping products?" Delegove asked. "Yes," Virenque answered.

The French rider said that taking doping products was a normal part of preparation. In a statement which reveals more about the contradictions and denial which has enveloped cycling in recent years, Virenque said: "We don't say doping. We say we are preparing for the race. To take drugs is to cheat. As long as the person doesn't test positive, they're not taking drugs."

Despite his admission, Virenque is not on trial for taking drugs. Rather, he is charged with "complicity in facilitating and inciting the use of doping" which carries a maximum penalty of two years in gaol.

Virenque also hinted at the secrecy and knowledge of doping in cycling by saying that "I was the sheep, if they threw me out of the herd I was finished. I live in a world where the rules are set up a long time in advance. I didn't cheat other riders."

The trial continues, with former world champion Luc LeBlanc set to appear later today.

On the first day of the trial, Delegrove put the question to Virenque, "Did you dope?" and got a somewhat hesitant answer: "I trusted the doctor, my wish was not to fall ill and not to fall positive later."

After today's admission, Delegrove told the French rider "In making this confession, you have grown in stature. You can now look yourself in the mirror."