French police on Monday detained two people as part of an investigation into suspected doping in the Arkea-Samsic team at this year’s Tour de France, prosecutors announced.
The probe is the first significant one in several years for the repeatedly scandal-hit tour, which on Sunday wrapped up in Paris with a victory for 21-year-old Tadej Pogacar, who became the youngest winner in more than a century.
Prosecutor Dominique Laurens in Marseille said in a statement that an investigation was being carried out into a “small part” of France-based Arkea-Samsic, without specifying who had been placed in custody.
Laurens added that the two people had “many health products including drugs in their personal belongings, but also and above all a method that can be qualified as doping.”
Arkea-Samsic general manager Emmanuel Hubert said that he was supporting his riders.
“But if it turned out that at the end of the current investigation, elements came to confirm the truth of doping practices, the team would immediately dissociate itself from such acts and would take the necessary measures without delay,” he said.
A source familiar with the matter said that the searches had targeted several riders, including Colombia’s Dayer Quintana, brother of team leader and former Giro d’Italia winner Nairo Quintana, as well as members of the medical team.
French daily Le Parisien reported that the two in custody were a doctor and physiotherapist.
The probe is likely to come as a huge disappointment to organizers just a day after positive headlines about the against-the-odds organization of the race and the last-minute drama that saw Pogacar seize victory on his first Tour de France.
Many had predicted the COVID-19 pandemic would prevent the riders making it the 3,400km from the Mediterranean city of Nice to the French capital.
Hubert said that the probe only involved “a very limited number of riders, as well as their close entourage who are not employed by the team.”
He added that the investigation “does not target the team or its staff directly.”
According to the prosecutor, the investigation is focused on the prescription of a substance or banned method for athletes, as well as help and encouragement in the use of that substance or method.
The charges can lead to up to five years in prison and a 75,000 euro (US$87,933) fine.
Arkea-Samsic leader Nairo Quintana finished the Tour in 17th place, more than an hour behind the winner Pogacar. Quintana’s teammate Warren Barguil finished in 14th place, 31 minutes from Pogacar.
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