Late night searchers conducted by plain clothed Italian police officers after stage 16 of this year’s Giro d’Italia revealed over 200 substances. It has been revealed on Procycling’s website that a further group of riders have been dragged into the Florence based enquiry that was duly set up after banned drugs were uncovered.
Yesterday a prosecutor added new names to the list, that already contains over seventy people, of riders that may be questioned in the future. These include the entire ibanesto.com team from the Giro (except for Italian climber Leonardo Piepoli who retired from the race before the raids), seven Mercatone Uno riders, a Kelme team doctor and more spectacularly, Telekom teammates Danielo Hondo and Tour de France contender Jan Ullrich.
The raids started before stage 17 of the race and the following day’s racing was cancelled as riders first talked of leaving the Giro d’Italia on mass. However after hours of talks with race director Carmine Castellano, the race continued under a huge cloud reminiscent of the, Festina scandal during the 1998 Tour de France.
The implications of the findings releasing these new names throws up many uncertainties about the start of the Tour de France which is due to start this Saturday. Up until now the Tour officials have claimed that any rider or team linked to drugs will not be allowed to take part in the race. But with so little time to dismiss teams and riders from the start and the fact that Ullrich has been named, means that little or no action may be taken until the results of the enquiry are released, which happens to be some months after the Tour de France.