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Tour de France team investigated for ‘possible doping allegations’ amid international police raids

The Independent logo The Independent 01/07/2022 Ian Parker
Fans cheer prior to the first stage of the Tour de France © AP Fans cheer prior to the first stage of the Tour de France

Europol has announced that raids which took place in 14 locations across Europe this week are focused on “possible doping allegations of a cycling team participating in the Tour de France”.

The European law enforcement agency said it had conducted searches in France, Belgium, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Poland, and Slovenia between Monday and Thursday.

The announcement came a day after Danish police, acting on a request from French authorities, searched the hotel of the Bahrain-Victorious team in Copenhagen, where the Tour de France got under way on Friday.

Earlier this week, riders and staff from the team had their homes searched prior to leaving for the Tour.

Europol said the searches were part of an investigation being led by French authorities under the supervision of the French public prosecutor’s office in Marseille “to look into possible doping allegations of a cycling team participating in the Tour de France”.

“Three people were interrogated,” the statement added. “The investigation is ongoing and the evidence seized is being forensically examined.

“The properties of several riders and their staff were searched in Belgium, Spain, Croatia, Italy, Poland and Slovenia.”

Europol did not name any of the individuals involved.

In its own statement on the raids, Eurojust provided more detail on the items that had been seized.

The statement said: “In Italy, several locations were searched and a range of electronic equipment (including laptops, smartphones, hard disks and pen drives), pharmaceutical substances and supplements were seized.

“In Belgium, a computer, a mobile phone and capsules with undetermined content were seized in one house search. In Poland, one house search was carried out. A series of electronic devices and pharmaceutical substances were seized.

“In Slovenia, 412 capsules with undetermined brown content and 67 capsules with undetermined white content were found, and one mobile phone was seized in a house search. In Spain, houses and premises were searched and electronic devices were seized.”

Bahrain-Victorious, whose hotel was also searched during last year’s Tour, have denied any wrong-doing.

In a statement issued on Monday following the searches at individuals’ homes, the team said: “The investigation into the members of the team, which started almost a year ago and did not yield any results, continues just before the start of the most important cycling race, the Tour de France, and damages the reputation of individuals and Team Bahrain Victorious.

“Due to recent investigations, the team feels the timing of this investigation is aimed at intentionally damaging the team’s reputation.”

On Thursday, the team’s pre-Tour press conference in Denmark was cut short after only eight minutes with the team refusing to take any questions in relation to the searches.

Reading a short statement, performance director Vladimir Miholjevic said: “We’d like to have more details from the investigators so we can understand such action.

“At this moment the team is fully focused on the biggest cycling race in front of us and on achieving our goals over the next three weeks.”

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