French prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation into doping allegations against Tour de France cycling team Bahrain Victorious after police searched the outfit’s accommodation and bus on Wednesday following the 17th stage of the race.
The prosecutor’s office in the port city of Marseille said the investigation was into “acquisition, transport, possession, import of a prohibited substance or prohibited method for use by an athlete without medical justification”.
The Bahrain Victorious team, winners of two stages in this year’s Tour de France, were subjected to police raids at their team hotel on Wednesday evening, as team vehicles and hotel rooms were reportedly searched by up to 50 police officers, until 2am on Thursday morning.
According to the team’s manager, Milan Erzen, it was “nothing special”. “We have a visit from the police, they ask for riders training files, they check bus and that’s it,” Erzen told cyclingnews.com. “They disturb riders for one hour and at the end, they said thank you. They didn’t tell us what’s the reason of visit, but we will find this out today through lawyers.”
In a statement the team said: “On the eve of stage 18 of Tour de France, Team Bahrain Victorious were subject to an investigation by French Police. The team were monitored by a number of officers following their arrival after stage 17 to the team hotel in Pau.”
“The investigation involved a search of riders’ rooms as part of the process. Despite being unaware of the investigation reasons, the team was also requested to provide all training files which were compiled and presented to the officers as requested.
The team’s technical director, Vladimir Miholjevic, commented: “Following stage 17, we were greeted by several French police officers. We were not given a warrant to read through, but the team complied with all the officers’ requests.
“We are committed to highest level of professionalism and adherence to all regulatory requirements and will always be cooperating in a professional manner. The process had impacted our riders recovery and meal planning and as a professional team, the wellbeing of our team is a key priority.”
In June this year, anonymous doping allegations against the team were made by rival team managers in Le Parisien, after the team took second place overall in the Giro d’Italia and also three stage wins in the Critérium du Dauphiné stage race, in the French Alps.
Erzen robustly defended his team and riders saying: “I don’t care what one sports director has to say. He can say whatever he wants. We’re doing our jobs and we’ve invested in this team, in our riders, coaches, training camps and nutrition. Everything. Sooner or later results need to come.
“I don’t need to explain to anybody,” he told cyclingnews.com. “We have the same doping controls as other teams, maybe more, I don’t know. And if anyone comes to us for doping control we are always open about that.”
The team, whose best placed rider is Pello Bilbao, currently 10th overall, is planning to continue in the Tour and has said that it will “defend our positions”. The Guardian has asked Tour de France promoters ASO for comment but has yet to receive a response.