It’s off again for a bad trick. The Great Loop barely finished, the shadow of doping reappears, as in the dark years, weighed down by the Festina and Armstrong cases. Barely crowned the new prince of the little queen, the Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, that the machine of doubts gets carried away.
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Suspicion fell on the shoulders of Nairo Quintana, his brother Dayer and Winner Anacona, the Colombian riders of the French training Arkéa-Samsic. A search roundly conducted Wednesday, September 16 in Méribel, by the gendarmes of the Central Office for the fight against attacks on the environment and public health (read below), brought to light a strange piece of equipment: “Many health products including drugs in their personal belongings, but also and above all a method that can be qualified as doping”, said Monday, September 21, the Marseille prosecutor who heads the investigation, Dominique Laurens.
Team members, but not employees?
That same Monday, we learn that two people who revolve around Quintana are in custody. The cycling training concerned was quick to react with a press release from its general manager, Emmanuel Hubert. He evokes a search concerning “A very limited number of runners, as well as their close entourage, not employed by the team”. Who are these ” relatives “ ? And on this Tour locked by the health measures imposed by the Covid-19, were they part of the famous “bubble” put in place to protect the runners?
“The two people involved must necessarily belong to the bubble”, judge Roger Legeay, former manager of the former Crédit Agricole team and president since 2007 of the Movement for a Credible Cycling (MPCC), to which 12 teams out of the 22 present on the Tour belong. “The press assures us that it is about the physiotherapist of Nairo Quintana and his personal doctor. The latter had indeed replaced, at the last moment, the usual doctor of the training, very ill. “
The physiotherapist would also be intimate with the winner of the Tour of Italy 2014 and the Tour of Spain 2016, present by his side since his arrival in his previous Movistar team in 2012, a real “Friend” even if we believe his words. Would the two not be employees of Arkéa-Samsic? However, the physiotherapist figures well in the official organization chart of the team.
Putting managers at the center of the game
In any case, here are the old demons of cycling that we wanted to believe asleep. Roger Legeay is hardly surprised and repeats it in all tones: “Once again, we can only see that if the fight against doping is moving in the right direction, the tests are not enough. All the major cases of the past twenty years, in cycling as in all other sports, have one thing in common: it is never doping controls that reveal them, but denunciations or police investigations. “
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To put an end to this shallot race, Roger Legeay’s MPCC proposes to explore a new avenue: that team managers commit to zero tolerance. “They’re the ones who hire the runners and the coaching staff. The careers of those caught with their fingers in the jam jar must end immediately. And that must be valid for the runners as for the supervision. No one can claim today that he does not know. So you have to be intractable. “
Even with Emmanuel Hubert, the manager of Arkéa member of the MPCC? “Either it is organized doping, and the sanction will fall. Either the team is not concerned, as its manager says, and then it must at least prohibit its riders from any competition before the end of the procedure, which would comply with our rules ”, judge Roger Legeay. Who wants to believe in his formula, even if it is only worth if we use it.
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And some are far from it, especially those around Tadej Pogacar. UAE Emirates team boss Mauro Gianetti and manager Joxean Fernandez Matxin have in the past been involved in several doping cases. But they are still in business, at the pinnacle with their rare pearl today. Proud of a team which, like Primoz Roglic’s Jumbo-Visma, do not join the MPCC.
Oclaesp at the heart of the investigation
It is once again the Central Office for the fight against attacks on the environment and public health (Oclaesp) which finds itself at the forefront of the investigation which is plunging the world of cycling back into disaster. Created in 2004, this judicial police service is made up of around sixty gendarmes and police officers supported by technical advisers, including one from the sports ministry.
Its investigation division includes a “public health” group which has actively participated in the fight against doping since 2009. It also immediately distinguished itself on the Tour de France 2009 by seizing infusion kits (syringes and plastic bags) at the within the Astana formation in which Lance Armstrong was then trying his hand at a return to the top after his retirement (he finished 3e, before his downgrading for doping in 2012).
Oclaesp has since intervened regularly during the Tour, especially in 2012 on the case of the rider of the Cofidis training, Rémy Di Grégorio, who will finally be sentenced in 2018 to a one-year suspended sentence for possession of prohibited material.