After a long and drawn out trial over the so called “Festina affair”, the
president of the French Cycling Federation, Daniel Baal, believes the case
“was about attempting to minimise the responsibility of those who were in
effect the accused.”
“The trial lasted two and a half weeks but I think from the early days the
direction was already set.” “I think that the instructing judge opened a
number of avenues and these didn’t reach an outcome which is regrettable.
It’s paradoxal to have seen people consistently cheat the authorities
(cycling) and then blame these authorities.” Baal told French television.
The court in Lille handed down suspended jail sentences and fines to other
team members charged with aiding and inciting the administration of illegal
doping substances to other riders.
Willy Voet, a former Festina masseur, was handed a suspended 10-month jail
sentence and fined 30,000 francs (£2,800). Former team manager Bruno Roussel
received a one-year suspended sentence and a fine of 50,000 francs (£4,700).
Virenque’s ‘light’ verdict was reached on the basis that there was no
physical proof the French rider was behind the doping of the 1998 Tour de
France Festina team, despite statements by the team masseur and manager that
Virenque was the instigator behind the initial use of drugs.
The court ruling stated that; “The facts would have been enough to justify
jail terms, ………. but the court took other factors into account,
especially the widespread recourse to doping and the failings of the fight
Virenque’s future will now be settled by a declaration from the Swiss cycling
federation on the 29th of December. Those wondering why the French “Hero”
switched to Swiss soil may like to know he moved just before the introduction
of more stringent and regular drug testing by the French authorities.
But at least he’s admitted to all that now, and should be climbing even
faster with all that weight off his shoulders!