UCI suspends Festina team chief
Roussel, team doctor Ryckaert taken into custody
Posted: Thursday July 16, 1998 02:11 PM
CHOLET, France (CNN/SI) -- Drugs are proving to be the headline grabbers in this years Tour de France, as the controversy surrounding the Festina team continues to mushroom after team manager Bruno Roussel was suspended Thursday morning.
The International Cycling Union (UCI) announced that they suspended Roussel's cycling license and he would therefore be unable to continue in his capacity with the team on the team as the UCI felt he had failed to adequately respond to the French Cycling Federation's investigation.
However, Jean-Marie LeBlanc, the Tour de France director, said there was no reason to suspend the team from competing for the moment.
The police conducted a search of the riders' rooms Wednesday.
Roussel and team doctor Erik Ryckaert were still in detention in Cholet, after being taken in for questioning by police following Wednesday's stage.
Police from the northern city of Lille came down to conduct the investigation. That's where a Belgian member of the Festina team has been under arrest since last week, when he was found with a stash of performance-enhancing drugs in a team car.
The scandal was on the front page of virtually all French newspapers Thursday.
"The Tour is Derailed," headlined the Liberation daily.
"Police at the Finish Line," said Le Parisien. "It's Going Badly," said France-Soir. "The Tour Poisoned," said Le Figaro.
The media was also full of comments by doctors and others saying they'd expected such a scandal to happen some day.
"This Festina affair doesn't surprise me at all," said Dr. Guy Zerhat, former doctor for the Bic cycling team in the 1970s.
"I am happy it is breaking out today, in everyone's interest, beginning with the cyclists themselves," he said on France 3 television.
He said that when he treated members of various teams, "I saw horrible things. I saw boys inject themselves during the race."
Another doctor, specializing in doping, said the practice is "part of daily life."
"The athlete has simply appropriated a practice that is widespread in other fields," said Dr. Patrick Laure in an interview with the daily L'Est Republicain.
The Festina team issued a statement Wednesday saying Roussel wished to be heard.
He got his wish later, when police offically detained him. French law allows detention of up to 48 hours before further action.
Festina's main sponsors, the Spanish watch company Festina, are threatening to break their contract with the team if there is any evidence of drug use among the riders.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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