It was an eerie tableau that unspooled at a San Remo resort on June 6: 200 Italian paramilitary police raiding 10 luxury hotels under cover of darkness, one cyclist jumping out a first-floor window in an attempt to escape, others flinging syringes from their rooms into the bushes outside. The raid, conducted after the 17th stage of the Giro d'Italia, turned up banned performance-enhancing drugs in the rooms of several riders, including Italy's Dario Frigo, who at the time was running second. Under Italian law, an athlete convicted of using a banned substance faces up to three years in jail. Frigo, who withdrew from the race a day later, said he would cooperate with Italian authorities. "I am not running from my responsibilities," he says. "I will speak."
The incident casts an ominous specter over not only the Giro—which was won by Italy's Gilberto Simoni—but the upcoming Tour de France as well. The Giro blitz recalls the one French police staged on a hotel during the 1998 Tour, which led to the expulsion of nine riders from the race. Although the International Cycling Union has protested, as it did in '98, what it calls excessive police tactics, the French sports ministry promises it won't hesitate to use similar methods when the Tour starts on July 7. "We will have tests to deter people and to ensure that cheaters cannot continue to do so," says sports minister Marie-Georges Buffet. "Naturally, if needed, the police and the justice system will play their part."