Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cofidis suspend rider over doping suspicions

PHOTO | JOEL SAGET | AFP Feeding bottles of French Cofidis cycling team are pictured at the hotel hosting the riders, on the first rest-day of the 2012 Tour de France cycling race on July 10, 2012 in Bourg-en-Bresse, southeastern France.

PHOTO | JOEL SAGET | AFP Feeding bottles of French Cofidis cycling team are pictured at the hotel hosting the riders, on the first rest-day of the 2012 Tour de France cycling race on July 10, 2012 in Bourg-en-Bresse, southeastern France. 

By AFP

MACON

Tour de France team Cofidis have suspended Frenchman Remy Di Gregorio over doping allegations, the team announced on the race's first rest day Tuesday.

Di Gregorio, 26, was arrested following a police raid at his team's hotel in Bourg-en-Bresse, several miles outside Macon in eastern France where the race will resume for the 10th stage Wednesday.

A team statement said: "We have just learned that one of our riders, competing at the Tour de France, may have attempted to resort to doping substances to improve his performance.

"At the current time, we have very little information about the facts of the case.

"However the suspicion on the rider concerned, Remy di Gregorio, leaves us with no choice but to hand down the strictest possible sanctions.

"Remy di Gregorio is therefore immediately suspended, provisionally, while we await more ample information on the case.

"If the suspicions are confirmed, he will be sacked on the spot -- in accordance with the stipulations in his contract and in line with the ethical policy of the team."

Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme said that he saw a positive message coming from the case.

"The message is the following: those who cheat will be uncovered at some point whether it is early or later, everyone must understand that well and that does us a lot of good.

"The earlier they are caught, the better it is," he said.

It is not the first time one or several riders from Cofidis have been embroiled in a doping affair.

Several riders including Briton David Millar and Frenchman Phillipe Gaumont were implicated in a damaging doping affair in 2004, leading to radical changes at management level.

Three years later, under pressure from organisers, the team voluntarily left the 2007 Tour when Italian rider, Cristian Moreni, tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin).

In 2007, current Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins, now of Team Sky, was part of the Cofidis team that went home after the 16th stage.

Cofidis hope to avoid the same fate as five years ago.

The statement added: "We believe however that this isolated case should not place any doubt on the team's continued participation in the Tour de France, or penalise those who have nothing to blame themselves for.

"The team will therefore line up for the race tomorrow morning."

Cofidis stressed they had the strictest rules concerning ethics in the team.

"In recent years we have put in place an exemplary anti-doping programme that goes well beyond what is imposed by the international anti-doping authorities.

"We see that in spite of these measures we are powerless in the face of individuals with no scruples who tarnish the image of the sponsor and sully the reputation of all the riders in the team.

"Consequently, all existing measures will not only be maintained but reinforced in the coming days."

Di Gregorio was arrested earlier Tuesday as part of an investigation into the organised trafficking of doping substances, Marseille magistrate Jacques Dallest told AFP.

He was taken into police custody in Bourg-en-Bresse and was brought to Marseille for further questioning by investigating magistrate Annaick Le Goff, Dallest said.

Two other unidentified men, who are suspected of "having dealings" with Di Gregorio, were also taken into police custody.

Le Goff said earlier that the investigation had been "opened last year". Prior to joining Cofidis for the 2012 season Di Gregorio raced with the Astana team, which is also racing the Tour de France.

Astana were also thrown off the race in 2007, after then leader Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan tested positive for blood doping.

Di Gregorio turned professional in 2005. His most notable success was a stage in the Paris-Nice in March 2011.

(AFP)

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