Arkea-Sam­sic fac­ing po­lice dop­ing probe

Prose­cu­tor cites a dis­cov­ery of ‘prod­ucts in­clud­ing drugs’ Po­gacar blood pro­files are clean, says team’s med­i­cal chief

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Tom Cary cy­cling cor­re­spon­dent

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.

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