Guilty, or not?
Roussel, Ryckaert taken to Lille for court appearance
Posted: Friday July 17, 1998 02:04 PM
LILLE, France (CNN/SI) -- Two of the Festina's teams officials who are in the middle of the drug scandal which has overshadowed this years Tour de France, were taken to Lille. According to judicial sources they were to appear in court Friday.
The officials who are Bruno Roussel, director of the team, and Erik Ryckaert, the tour doctor have been in custody since Wednesday evening.
The daily Le Parisien reported Friday that Roussel and Ryckaert were implicated in another doping case that came to light in Belgium in December 1997.
It said the names of both officils came up in an investigation that began when the Belgian Department of Social Security suspected that a pharmacist was diverting the drug EPO.
EPO is a substance that allows the better transport of oxygen within the blood stream.
As the controversy over the drug scandal grew Friday, Jean-Paul Escande, former president of a national commission against doping, said the affair is unfairly targeting the Festina team.
Escande said the use of such drugs is widespread in sports.
"There is more and more of it," he said on France 2 television.
Festina's masseur, Willy Voet, who was taken into custody over a week ago when French customs police found over 400 vials of banned substances in his car on the Franco-Belgian border is still in custody in Lille.
Roussel, meanwhile, has been suspended from his functions by the International Cycling Union.
But Jean-Marie LeBlanc, the Tour de France director, said there was no reason to suspend the team from competing for the moment, and the team insisted it would go on as usual.
Ryckaert told the L'Equipe newspaper Thursday he was "broken" by the allegations, and staunchly denied any involvement in doping.
"My wife knows me, and she knows that everything they are saying about me is a serious lie," he said.
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin said he'd seen "with sadness - but not total surprise - the news that people without scruples wanted to give cyclists, and surely did, forbidden doping products, difficult or impossible to detect, and at the same time certainly very dangerous for athletes' health."
He said it was essential "that light be shed, and conclusions drawn."
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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