LIÈGE, Belgium (AFP) — The French cycling team Europcar is downplaying a report that it is under investigation over allegations of improperly using transfusions during the 2011 Tour de France.
The website of the newspaper L’Equipe reported that a preliminary investigation was opened in August last year, a month after team leader Thomas Voeckler completed a stunning Tour campaign to finish fourth overall.
The report said French governmental authorities were looking into whether the team had used “intravenous transfusions for recovery and the consumption of banned corticosteroids.”
However, a judicial source, requesting anonymity, said the report was wide of the mark.
“No investigation has been launched. We’re only at the preliminary stages,” he said.
Corticosteroids can be used to help recovery from intense competition. While they are not considered a potent performance-enhancing drug like the blood-boosting EPO (erythropoietin), they are still illegal.
As to the alleged transfusions, the L’Equipe story said that they may have been improperly used to deliver a mix of B vitamins, Bécozyme, to athletes.
Doctors working with Europcar denied that the team had been involved in any illegal practices.
“We’ve never used these methods,” said Hubert Long, the team’s official doctor. “When a team starts producing good results, the rumour mill starts turning. It’s a classic, but also pitiful.”
Alain Astie, a biologist who has worked closely with the team since 2011, categorically denied that riders had used corticosteroids.
“I’ve never seen anything suspect,” he said.
Team manager Jean-Rene Bernaudeau, whose team is one of several affiliated with the Movement for Credible Cycling in a bid to keep the sport clean, likewise denied that his team has been involved in any wrongdoing.
“There’s no problem whatsoever, and if there was I would have known about it,” Bernaudeau told AFP.
As for Voeckler, who has downplayed his chances of another top finish this year after knee problems affected his training and racing, he conceded that the claims had not made his job any easier.
“I’m not going to say it’s not bothering me. When people are saying things and spreading bad news behind my back when it’s not justified, it’s never pleasing,” said Voeckler.
“I’m trying to ignore it.”