MARSEILLE, France (AFP) — The Tour de France saw its first doping scandal of 2012 on Tuesday when police took Rémy Di Gregorio into custody. Investigators snared the Cofidis rider in a raid of the team’s hotel in Bourg-en-Bresse.
Additionally, two men were placed in custody in Marseille, for a case of alleged doping, said a spokesperson for the prosecutor.
The raid took place in the Bourg-en-Bresse hotel hosting Cofidis for the Tour’s first rest day. Di Gregario was taken into police custody in Bourg-en-Bresse and brought to Marseille for further questioning by investigating magistrate Annaick Le Goff, Marseille magistrate Jacques Dallest told AFP.
The two men arrested on Tuesday in Marseille are believed to be “in connection” with the Di Gregorio, according to prosecutors who declined to say more before the end of the custody of the three men, which can last up to 48 hours.
Le Goff said earlier that the investigation had been “opened last year.” Di Gregorio rode for Astana in 2011.
Cofidis suspended Di Gregorio on Tuesday.
A team statement said: “We have just learned that one of our riders, competing at the Tour de France, has attempted to resort to doping substances to improve his performance.
“At the current time, we have very little information about the facts of the case.
“However the suspicion on the rider concerned, Remy di Gregorio, leaves us with no choice but to hand down the strictest possible sanctions.
“Remy di Gregorio is therefore immediately suspended, provisionally, while we await more ample information on the case.
“If the suspicions are confirmed, he will be sacked on the spot — in accordance with the stipulations in his contract and in line with the ethical policy of the team.”
It is not the first time one or several riders from Cofidis have been embroiled in a doping affair. Several riders, including David Millar and Phillipe Gaumont, were implicated in a damaging doping affair in 2004, leading to radical
changes at management level.
Three years later, under pressure from organizers, the team voluntarily left the 2007 Tour when Cristian Moreni tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin). In 2007, current Tour de France leader Bradley Wiggins (Sky) was part of the Cofidis team that went home after the 16th stage.
Tour de France officials have yet to comment on the case, but Cofidis management hopes to avoid the same fate as five years ago.
The team’s statement added: “We believe however that this isolated case should not place any doubt on the team’s continued participation in the Tour de France, or penalize those who have nothing to blame themselves for.
“The team will therefore line up for the race tomorrow morning.”
Cofidis stressed its rules concerning ethics in the team.
“In recent years we have put in place an exemplary anti-doping program that goes well beyond what is imposed by the international anti-doping authorities.
“We see that in spite of these measures we are powerless in the face of individuals with no scrupules who tarnish the image of the sponsor and sully the reputation of all the riders in the team.
“Consequently, all existing measures will not only be maintained but reinforced in the coming days.
“We want to make it loud and clear: anyone who cheats has no place in the Cofidis team.”