French team Europcar play down doping claims
French cycling team Europcar have played down claims they are being investigated for alleged doping practices at the 2011 Tour de France, following a damning report on Wednesday.
The website of L’Equipe newspaper has claimed a preliminary investigation was opened in August last year, a month after team leader Thomas Voeckler completed a stunning Tour campaign to finish fourth overall.
The report said the team were being investigated by French government authorities for the possible use of “intraveinous transfusions for recovery and the consumption of banned corticosteroids”.
However, two days before the start of the 99th edition a judicial source, who requested anonymity, said the report was wide of the mark.
“No investigation has been launched. We’re only at the preliminary stages,” he said.
Corticosteroids can be used to help recovery from intense competition and while not considered a potent performance-enhancing drug like the blood-boosting EPO (erythropoietin) they are still illegal.
L’Equipe.fr admitted the alleged transfusions given to Europcar’s riders “did not consist of doping products” and instead ”concerned vitamin B, for example”.
Doctors working with Europcar also denied the team had been involved in any illegal practices.
“We’ve never used these methods,” the team’s official doctor Hubert Long said.
“When a team starts producing good results, the rumour mill starts turning. It’s a classic, but also pitiful.”
Alain Astie, a biologist who has worked closely with the team since 2011, categorically denied that riders had used corticosteroids.
“I’ve never seen anything suspect,” he said.
Team manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau, whose team is one of several affiliated to the MPCC (Movement for credible cycling) in a bid to keep cycling clean, has played down the report and denied his team has been involved in any wrongdoing.
“There’s no problem whatsoever, and if there was I would have known about it,” Bernaudeau told AFP.
Voeckler, who has played down his chances of another top finish this year due to recent knee inflammation problems that disturbed his training, admitted the claims had not made his campaign any easier to approach.
“I’m not going to say it’s not bothering me. When people are saying things and spreading bad news behind my back when it’s not justified, it’s never pleasing,” said Voeckler.
“I’m trying to ignore it.”