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Drugs found in TVM's hotel

Police seize suspect medication from Bigmat team vehicle

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Posted: Tuesday July 28, 1998 05:44 PM

  Jeroen Blijlevens of Netherlands is escorted by police officials as he enters the Albertville hospital to undergo medical examinations in the doping allegations against the TVM team AP

ALBERTVILLE, France (CNN/SI) -- Bigmat became the third tour team to fall foul of the rumors and insinuations surrounding this year's Tour de France on Tuesday.

Approximately 100 vials of some drug were found in briefcases by customs in a routine inspection in a vehicle driven by officials of the Bigmat team on the Franco-Swiss border in Chambery near Albertville.

The drugs were sent to a police laboratory in the city of Lyon for analysis, police said.

France Info radio, citing unidentified judicial sources, reported that the medication was a banned substance.

Bigmat is the third team to come under scrutiny over allegations of drug use.

Festina has been expelled from the race for the use of EPO, while officials from the Dutch TVM team are also being investigated for supplying the banned doping substance.

Police on Tuesday night conducted a search of the TVM hotel in Albertville at the request of an investigating judge.

After cordoning off the hotel, the officers left with the team's sporting director, Hendrick Redant, and four cyclists, some of whom covered their faces with coats. Police also left with bags containing medication.

A police official at the scene, who requested anonymity, said the cyclists would undergo medical tests at a local hospital.

Two top TVM officials were placed under formal investigation by French authorities Tuesday for the use of the performance-enhancing drug EPO.

Sporting director Cees Priem and team doctor Andrei Mikhailov are now likely to be formally charged.

Approximately 100 vials of some drug were found in briefcases by customs in a routine inspection in a vehicle driven by officials of the Bigmat team AP 

TVM came under the spotlight when it emerged that EPO had been found in the car of one of its officials in March.

Police then found evidence of used drugs in a suitcase and trash can during a search of the team's hotel in Toulouse and Metz, though the nature of the drugs is still not known.

Meanwhile, two former Festina cyclists, Emmanuel Magnien and Gilles Bouvard, were released from police detention Tuesday, a day after being held for questioning by Lille police.

"There is no doubt that all the former cyclists at Festina will be interrogated," said main prosecutor Gerald Vinsonneau.

Both cyclists raced for Festina in 1997, and "recognized there was doping during training," during interviews with police in Lille, said the chief prosecutor for the town court, Gerald Vinsonneau.

Neither of the cyclists, who now race for the Francaise des Jeux and Casino teams respectively, is currently in the tour.

Meanwhile, Bruno Roussel, Festina's sporting director, was released from custody Tuesday. He has been held since July 17.

Festina physiotherapist Willy Voet was released Friday, but team doctor Eric Ryckaert remains in custody.

Some Festina riders continue to deny ever taking EPO or other illegal drugs.

"Bruno Roussel never asked me if I wanted to take EPO under medical control, and I maintain that I never took it," Richard Virenque, the team's No. 1 cyclist, told investigating judge Patrick Keil, according to Tuesday's edition of the newspaper L'Est Republicain.

"I never asked for doping products and I never needed them. I have never taken amphetamines. I am going to follow the advice of my lawyer and file a civil complaint," he said.

 

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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