GRENOBLE, France (AFP) — Patrice Ciprelli, the husband and coach of legendary French cyclist Jeannie Longo, admitted to purchasing the banned performance-booster EPO on Thursday, but insisted it was for ‘his personal use’.
“Patrice Ciprelli admits buying EPO for his own personal use because he has been the subject of repeated cycling accidents these last few years,” his lawyer Pierre Albert told AFP. “He hid them from Jeannie. He didn’t want her to see them.”
French police on Wednesday arrested Ciprelli over the alleged purchase of the banned performance-enhancing drug EPO (erythropoietin).
They also confirmed that police had spent several hours seaching the couple’s chalet at the village of Saint-Martin-Le-Vinoux near Grenoble.
The 53-year-old Longo was not detained along with her husband, although a friend of Ciprelli, Michel Lucatelli, who is the head of the French skicross team, was.
The police operation was part of an investigation into Ciprelli’s activities launched last September.
This followed a report in L’Equipe newspaper alleging that Ciprelli had bought Chinese-made samples of the banned blood-booster EPO in April 2007, using a US website and with the help of retired US cyclist Joe Papp, who was banned for doping himself.
The French Cycling Federation subsequently banned Ciprelli, but he took the case to court and the ban was overturned in October.
Longo, who is widely expected to retire after the London Olympics in 2012, is a 59-time national champion who has won the women’s Tour de France three times and who enjoys huge popularity in her own country.
She has won a total of 30 medals from the Olympics and world championships combined.
There has never been any proof that the athlete ever saw or used the banned drugs in question.