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French police open doping investigation into Arkea-Samsic

Joe Robinson
22 Sep 2020

'Limited number of riders and staff' had their hotels searched at the Tour de France last week

A preliminary investigation into a 'small part' of the Arkea-Samsic team has been opened by police after public health officials searched the team's hotel rooms at the Tour de France last Wednesday.

First reported by the French AFP news agency, the investigation has been opened by the Marseille prosecutor's office for suspicion of doping practices after the team's hotel was searched in Meribel last week.

When opening the case, the prosecutor Dominique Laurens cited the 'discovery of many health products, including drugs and especially a method that could be qualified as doping'.

Laurens also added that the investigation looked to centre around those 'responsible for the administration and prescription to an athlete without medical justification of a substance or method prohibited within the framework of a sports event, aid in the use and incitement to the use of a substance or method prohibited to athletes, the transport and possession of a prohibited substance or method for the purpose of use by an athlete without medical justification.'

French newspaper Le Parisien then further reported that two team members were held by police, a team doctor and a soigneur, while two riders were questioned, team leader and 2014 Giro d'Italia winner Nairo Quintana and his brother Dayer.

It was also reported by Le Parisien that the search of the hotel rooms discovered '100ml of saline and injection equipment'.

Nairo Quintana led the French ProTour team at the Tour having joined from Movistar last season. The 30-year-old rider eventually finished 17th overall, over one hour down on eventual winner Tadej Pogacar, his lowest Grand Tour finish since the 2012 Vuelta a Espana.

Fellow French newspaper L'Equipe followed up by confirming last week's raids with Arkea-Samsic team manager Emmanuel Hubert before suggesting the target of the raids by the Central Office for Combating Environmental and Public Health Damage (OCLAESP) was Nairo Quintana.

It also added that a third Colombian team member, Winner Anacona, had his room searched.

Team manager Hubert has since spoken on the matter, stating in a press release on Monday night that the investigation concentrates on a limited number of riders within the team and their close associates rather than the team as a whole.

'A search was carried out last week in our hotel, as I have already confirmed with various media. It only involved a very limited number of riders and their close relatives who are not employed by the team,' Hubert said.

'The team, its general manager as well as its staff, who are currently mentioned in the media, are not in any way implicated and consequently are not informed of any element, near or far, relating to the progress of the investigation, which, I remind you, is not aimed at the team or its staff directly.

'We obviously support our riders, but if it turns out that, at the end of the ongoing investigation, elements confirming the veracity of doping practices, the team will immediately disassociate itself from such acts and will immediately take the necessary measures to put an end to the links that could unite them with unacceptable methods that are still being fought against.

'Indeed, the team, as a member of the MPCC (the Movement For Credible Cycling), has always, over the last 20 years, demonstrated its commitment to ethics and taken a stand in favour of the fight against doping.'

On Monday, the UCI released a statement on the matter confirming its support for the investigation.

'The UCI confirms that it has been in communication with OCLAESP and the Cycling Antidoping Foundation (CADF) as part of the legal operations carried out by the French authorities on the sidelines of the Tour de France,' the statement read.

'The UCI welcomes and supports the action of all parties involved and will take the appropriate measures once it has taken note of the information obtained by the French legal authorities.'