Drug slush fund
Festina's doctor says team manager obtained drugs for riders
Posted: Tuesday July 21, 1998 10:01 AM
PARIS (CNN/SI) -- There was no let up for the beleaguered Tour de France on Tuesday. The drug scandal surrounding the Festina team, which has outshone the actual race, took yet another twist.
The team's doctor, Eric Ryckaert, apparently claimed that team members were told by team manager Bruno Roussel to contribute to a fund used to buy illegal substances.
"The riders were obliged to put part of their win bonuses into a `black box' fund to buy banned substances," Arsene Ryckaert, the lawyer for team doctor Eric Ryckaert, said in an interview with the daily newspaper Le Parisien. "These products, like regular drugs, were held at Festina's headquarters in Lyon."
Arsene Ryckaert told Le Parisien that Roussel was in charge of the system and that the riders decided what substances they wanted to take.
Ryckaert said that his client, to whom he is not related, did not prescribe or administer banned substances, and was called in only if riders had problems after taking drugs.
The drug scandal has rocked the Tour de France since customs officers found illegal substances in the car of the physiotherapist of Festina's top rider Richard Virenque.
Tour officials ejected the Festina team on Friday after Roussel admitted supplying illegal drugs to his cyclists.
Festina riders withdrew from the race Saturday at the request of the Tour de France after first trying to defy the ban and race in Saturday's time trial.
The drug scandal grew today when it was reported that French customs officials found the drug EPO in the car of officials of the TVM team in March. EPO is the same substance allegedly used by Festina.
Tour organizers have threatened to throw the TVM team out if it is proven that its riders also took the illegal drug.
TVM, a Dutch transport insurance company, told the Dutch news agency, ANP, that it believes a third party might be involved in the latest allegations.
"The case has been closed for four months. Festina gets caught and this suddenly surfaces again. I find it strange," Ad Bos, director of TVM, told ANP.
Hein Verbruggen, president of the International Union of Cycling (UCI), has admitted that the sport's officials are struggling to discover how many cyclists are using illegal substances.
"I don't know how many, is it 5 percent, 10 percent, is it 20 percent of 40 percent?" he said. "I don't know, nobody knows."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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