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Another arrest

TVM masseur jailed in tour drug scandal

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Posted: Wednesday September 02, 1998 09:53 PM

  Team TVM came underfire during the tour for suspicion of drug use Graham Chadwick/Allsport

REIMS, France (CNN/SI) -- The Tour de France may be over, but the scandal which surrounded this year's race before it even started, continues to fester.

TVM's masseur was jailed by a French judge and police questioned 14 of the Dutch teams riders and officials Monday as the probe into the drug scandal gathered momentum.

Johannes Moors was detained on suspicion of possessing harmful substances and breaking Frances anti-doping and customs laws. TVM's team director Cees Priem and doctor Andrei Mikhailov were jailed last week for the same reason.

Reims police questioned 14 TVM team members, six of whom were riders who raced in the Tour that ended on Sunday, to get to the root of the drug networks revealed by police raids at cyclists hotels.

The riders -- Jeroen Blijlevens, Steven De Jongh, Servais Knaven, Bart Voskamp, Sergei Ivanov and Sergei Outschankov -- made no comment as they entered the main police station in this town north of Paris.

The other TVM members called to testify as witnesses were team officials. Officials said there were 14 in all, not 15 as originally reported after team members struggled through crowds of journalists and cameramen outside the police station.

Jan Van Het Hoge, the team's cook, told journalists, "the riders are all very at ease and don't think they will be put under official examination because they are innocent. I hope we can go back to the Netherlands quickly."

In an interview with the newspaper Le Monde, Sports Minister Marie-George Buffet said she decided to crack down on illicit substances in sport last year when she took office and realized that doping was no longer just a cottage industry.

What was missing for a long time in the fight against doping was a strong political will to do it, said Buffet, one of the Communists in the left-wing coalition that came to power in June 1997.

She said that meant a determination to hide nothing, to attack the deeper causes of doping, to never give in to pressures-- and let me tell you, they exist.

The TVM riders were called to testify after two police raids on their hotels during the three-week Tour produced evidence the team was using illicit doping products to enhance performance.

The second raid, in Albertville last Tuesday, ended with the riders being taken off to a local hospital for tests on their urine, blood and hair.

The riders complained they were being treated like animals and a go-slow protest the next day forced officials to annul that stage of the race.

The questioning in Reims and continuing doping probe in Lille have pushed the Tour into an unexplored stage.

Under the current doping law in France, riders are not prosecuted unless they contribute to a fund for the purchase of performance-enhancing drugs or sell them to other riders.

This is the charge faced by Italian rider Rodolfo Massi, who last week became the first rider placed under investigation on suspicion of dealing in banned substances.

A tougher new law on doping will be examined by France's lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, when it reconvenes in September.

Meanwhile, the case of the Festina team which sparked the scandal is expected to progress slowly because Judge Patrick Keil, who is handling the case, is on holiday and will not return until September.

Riders from the Casino and ONCE teams are expected to be called for questioning, judicial sources said. ONCE's team doctor Nicolas Terrados has been placed under investigation on drug charges by Keil.


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Reuters contributed to this report.