French authorities launch preliminary investigation into Bahrain Victorious team
French authorities have announced that a preliminary investigation is under way into doping allegations made against Bahrain Victorious after their hotel and team bus were searched at the Tour de France on Wednesday night.
The team issued a statement on Thursday morning acknowledging the search of both the hotel and the team bus, saying that the police had requested copies of training files.
The Marseille prosecutor’s office said the raid was part of an investigation launched on July 3 into the possible “acquisition, transportation, possession and importing of a prohibited substance or method for use by an athlete without justification by members of Team Bahrain Victorious, currently in action at the 2021 Tour de France”.
A statement added: “The preliminary investigation is continuing to determine the reality or not of the offenses that justified its initiation.
“The existence of this investigation and the operations carried out do not in any way predict the existence of criminal offenses. Anyone suspected or prosecuted is presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
Last month, Bahrain Victorious general manager Milan Erzen defended the team after anonymous allegations were published in French newspaper Le Parisien following successes in the Giro d’Italia and the Criterium du Dauphine.
It is understood several officers took part in the search at the hotel, which continued into the early hours of Thursday morning, although no arrests were made.
In a statement, the team’s technical director Vladimir Miholjevic said: “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 (the) 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.”
Bahrain Victorious, who have enjoyed a successful Tour to date despite the loss of their main general classification hope Jack Haig in a stage three crash, took the start of Thursday’s stage 18 of the race.
They collected back-to-back wins on stages seven and eight through Matej Mohoric and Dylan Teuns, while Wout Poels leads the king of the mountains classification and sprinter Sonny Colbrelli, twice in the top three on mountain stages, sits third in the points classification.
Pello Bilbao is the best placed of the team’s riders overall, sitting 10th, almost 13 minutes off Tadej Pogacar in the yellow jersey.
Their Briton Fred Wright, 22, is the youngest rider in this year’s Tour.
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