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Bad medicine

The doping trial of Festina rider Richard Virenque and his team masseur and manager is continuing in France revealing even more evidence of the massive doping problem Festina had – and therefore by not too shakey extension – the rest of the Pro road peloton still have.

High / lowlights from this week include the following revelations.

The wife of the former physiotherapist for the Festina cycling team testified “Doping invaded us in 1995-96,” Sylvie Voet said. “It spoiled our life.”
The performancing-enhancing drug known as EPO and growth hormones “ended up taking more space than food in our refrigerator”.

French cycling federation (FFC) president Daniel Baal was questioned by Judge Delegove as to how he thought he could reconcile his role as anti doping controller with his full time bank managers job.

“EPO has been on the list of banned substances since 1990,” Delegove said to Baal. “Do you feel ignoring this fact was unprofessional conduct?”
Baal denied any knowledge about the use of EPO in the peloton until “a few weeks after my election in February 1993…. Until then, I still believed that anti-doping controls were reliable.” He added, “I think that in 1993 the use of EPO was very limited, especially in France. I had knowledge of doping (before 1993), yes, but not the use of EPO.”

He continued to state that now new generation drugs are still slipping straight through current doping tests. “Today other products have appeared,” Baal said. “I have no information about them. We are meeting the same problems as when EPO arrived (in the peloton).”
“I have no illusions. I’m not pretending that my sport is clean. Evil does exist, doping is (evil) and I shall fight that evil.”

In conclusion, Ball said, “The first victims of the dopers and those who dope are the clean riders. We don’t have the right to generalize, to say that to be a cyclist is to be a doper…. (That is) putting down men, and their honor.”

Meanwhile Virenque took the stand again to explain how doping became part of his career.

“Bike riding requires permanent sacrifice,” “It means training 11 months out of 12 and 110 days of racing whatever the weather conditions.”
“Early in life I realized I did not have intellectual potential so I dedicated myself to cycling. As a teenager I did not smoke, I did not go out to discos like 95 percent of youngsters do.
“After a while, suffering becomes harder. Your heartbeats swing from 140 to 180 a minute for long hours. It’s not just like walking up stairs, you can only overcome pain with treatment (doping in cycling’s slang) and fans’ support,”

He also revealed how worried he is about the long term implications of doping.

“I will see to the consequences later,” “But I hope my life will last as long as possible. The most important thing for me now is to see my children grow up.”



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