The riders of the Tour de France are about to see their daily life punctuated by the kilometers swallowed up along the Grande Boucle, but the Bahrain Victorious cycling team is getting used – against their will – to another form of repetition. On the eve of the departure of the 109e edition of the Tour de France, the Bahraini team announced that it was the subject of a new search, Thursday, June 30, at its hotel in the suburbs of Copenhagen (Denmark), from where the race will start. This a few days after the homes of several team members were searched earlier this week.
At the request of the French investigators, ” the police [danoise] searched the team cars, as well as the rooms of the support staff and the cyclists”specifies the team of Slovenian Matej Mohoric (double stage winner in 2021) in a statementensuring to have “completely cooperated” and that’“No object was seized” during this search, which began at 5:30 a.m.
Since the 2021 Tour, the Bahrain Victorious team has been the subject of an investigation by the Marseille prosecutor’s office for “acquisition, transport, possession, import of a prohibited substance or method for the purpose of use by an athlete without medical justification” . During the last week of racing, in 2021, the Bahraini team was raided in Pau. In the fall, leaks had revealed that traces of tizanidine, a powerful muscle relaxant used against multiple sclerosis, but not prohibited by anti-doping regulations, had been found in the hair analyzes of several runners. The team had denied having been informed and the laboratory had not confirmed the identities of the athletes concerned.
Searches at the request of French investigators
“To date, the team has not been informed of the progress of the results or has not received any feedback on the investigation from the Marseille prosecutor’s office”assured Bahrain Victorious, at the beginning of the week, after the first salvo of searches carried out in different countries against its members, regretting “damage to the reputation of individuals and the team” generated by these police operations.
On Thursday, Danish police confirmed that they acted at the request of French authorities. “Following a request from the French police as part of an ongoing investigation in France, we carried out a search of a hotel in Brondby [dans la banlieue de Copenhague] »said a spokesperson, referring to French investigators for more details.
The Bahrain Victorious formation, including one of the leaders, the Italian Sonny Colbrelli, suffered a cardio-respiratory arrest in March, is headed by Milan Erzen, as general manager. The Slovenian had been suspected, in 2020, in the context of the Aderlass blood doping case ; he then characterized the charges as “completely false”.
These searches and the suspicions of doping they entail do not prevent Bahrain Victorious from approaching the 109e edition of the Grande Boucle with ambition. “Our goal is to get the team’s first podium in the Tour de France, which we just missed with [Mikel] Landa in 2020 », warned the sports director and former Slovenian rider Gorazd Stangelj, this week. With the Slovenian Matej Mohoric, the Belgian Dylan Teuns, the Australian Jack Haig or the Italian Damiano Caruso (second in the Giro 2021) as headliners, the team will also aim for stage victories as in the last edition , where its runners had raised their arms three times.
Assuring that they no longer want to comment on the searches, the team expressed Thursday that they had “looking forward to focusing on the biggest cycling race in the world”. But from the big start, Friday in Copenhagen, its results will be particularly scrutinized.