Taint of drugs spreads
TVM officials to face judge in drug scandal investigations
Posted: Monday July 27, 1998 11:23 AM
PARIS (CNN/SI) -- TVM'S team director Cees Priem and team doctor Alexandrei Mikhailov were to be transferred with a police escort from the jail in Foix, southwestern France to Reims, northeast France, to appear before a magistrate investigating the drug scandal surrounding the Tour de France.
The two TVM officials left the jail by car but local authorities said they assumed they would be transferred to Paris by air and then driven to Reims. The two may well become the center of the latest chapter in the investigation for allegedly organizing the use of EPO within the team.
The director and doctor of the Festina team are imprisoned for their roles in the alleged drug use by that team.
The TVM officials set out from Foix in southern France for the long journey to the capital of he Champagne region east of Paris.
They were expected in early evening in Reims.
The two officials "will be put under formal investigation separately," deputy public prosecutor Philippe Laumosne told LCI news television.
The next step would be for other team members to be brought in for questioning, he said.
Rival team Festina has already been expelled from the Tour de France in connection with the widespread use of the performance-enhancing drug EPO after its team director and doctor confessed to organizing the use of drugs in the team.
But unless TVM officials admit to organizing the use of an illegal substance, the TVM team will remain in the race.
"I will wait to have more precise details before deciding to exclude the team," tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc told French daily Liberation on Monday. Being charged does not remove the presumption of innocence, he explained.
Meanwhile, a total of five cyclists have now come forward to admit taking EPO.
"Yes I took EPO. Caught up in the whole business, I took it for three years under strict medical supervision. But I never abused it," Swiss Festina member Laurent Dufaux was quoted Monday by the Swiss daily Le Matin as saying.
"I hope that those who have come clean will not be the only ones who have to carry the can," said Dufaux, who added he felt there was a danger the issue could end up being swept under the carpet.
"I am afraid people will put a lid over the five who have confessed, that they will be sanctioned and that nothing will change."
Countrymen Alex Zuelle and Armin Meier are among others who admitted to taking the drug, but Richard Virenque, Pascal Herve and Didier Rous all of France and Australian Neil Stephens still deny any wrongdoing.
Tour officials continue to react to calls to cancel the race.
"There is no question of stopping the tour," Leblanc said in the interview with Liberation.
But he admitted to fearing the worst Friday when cyclists refused for two hours to start the race.
"For 15 minutes, I thought that the tour was going to stop by itself. If the riders had persisted, if the stage had not begun, I would have thought differently. The tour would have definitely broken down. But stopping it myself, no," he told the newspaper.
The only times the tour has not been competed was the years during the two world wars.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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