Arkea-Samsic facing police doping probe
Prosecutor cites a discovery of ‘products including drugs’ Pogacar blood profiles are clean, says team’s medical chief
French police have opened a preliminary investigation into possible doping within the France-based Arkea-Samsic squad at this year’s Tour de France.
Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille confirmed to French news agency AFP yesterday that an inquiry had been opened and cited the “discovery of many health products, including drugs and especially a method that could be qualified as doping”.
Prosecutor Laurens added that the investigation focused on the “prescription to an athlete without medical justification of a prohibited substance or method within the framework of a sports event, aid in the use and encouragement to use a substance or method prohibited to athletes, transport and possession of substance or method prohibited for use by an athlete without medical justification”.
French police searched hotel rooms occupied by Arkea-Samsic last Wednesday following the Col de la Loze finish on stage 17 at the Tour de France, according to reports in Le
Journal du Dimanche.
Emmanuel Hubert, the ArkeaSamsic team manager, confirmed that the search had taken place when contacted by L’Equipe.
He added in a statement: “It only concerns a very small number of riders, as well as their close entourage, not staff members of the team.
“We support our riders, but if it turns out that at the end of the investigation the elements confirm the veracity of doping practices, the team would immediately dissociate itself from such acts.
“The team has shown throughout the last 20 years its attachment to ethical practices and has taken a strong stance in favour of the fight against doping.”
The UCI, cycling’s world governing body, last night said in its own statement: “The UCI welcomes and supports the action of all parties involved and will take the appropriate measures once it has taken note of the information obtained by the French legal authorities.”
The development will come as a huge blow to the sport, which has struggled to regain credibility following years of doping scandals in the 1990s and 2000s.
It comes less than 24 hours after Tadej Pogacar of Slovenia was crowned the youngest Tour de France champion in over 100 years in a dramatic finale to the race.
The UAE Team Emirates rider, who turned 22 yesterday, managed to turn the race on its head with a sensational ride in the penultimateday time trial to overhaul his compatriot Primoz Roglic of Jumbo-Visma.
There is no suggestion that Pogacar or his team have done anything wrong. Indeed, the Slovenian has been hailed as a unique talent by Dr Jeroen Swart, his team’s medical director, who assured fans.
Swart, a South African who has worked in anti-doping and was the independent doctor brought in to oversee Chris Froome’s independent physiological testing in 2015, told The Cycling Podcast that Pogacar gave him no cause for concern.
“I wouldn’t get involved in any aspect of this team if I wasn’t sure that my reputation was safe,” Swart said of the rider, whose stunning time-trial performance on La Planche des Belles Filles last Saturday turned the race on its head.
“I have access to all the blood profiles and there’s nothing that I’ve seen [of Pogacar] that makes me even remotely concerned. Tadej is someone who shies away from using any form of medication whatsoever.
“Look, we know the history of the sport. You can never be 100 per cent sure of anything, as we’ve seen over the years, but certainly from what I can see and control and what I have seen, there is nothing that gives me any pause.”
Swart said that Pogacar’s ability to recover, in particular, was “off the charts” good.