Luxembourg’s plans for success in the men’s road race at the world championships have been hampered by a police raid on the team’s hotel, and a damning newspaper report on one of the country’s top riders.
According to journalists staying with the team at the same hotel police carried out a raid late on Friday evening. Around 15 of Italy’s NAS (anti-doping) brigade searched bedrooms occupied by the Luxembourg team, taking particular interest in a hypobaric chamber which is designed to artificially simulate conditions at altitude.
Using a hypobaric chamber – which can enhance performance – is not illegal under the rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), but its use is banned in Italy.
The news comes in the wake of a newspaper report which has left Luxembourg rider Frank Schleck to face the Duchy’s anti-doping authorities over a payment allegedly made to a doctor at the centre of the Opera?ion Puerto doping affair.
The German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung claims that Schleck, one of the world’s top cyclists who rides for the CSC team of Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre, paid a sum of 7000 euros in March 2006 into a Swiss bank account held by Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
Fuentes is reported to have been the mastermind of a vast blood doping network, which was dubbed Opera?ion Puerto in May 2006 following a police raid on his Madrid laboratory which uncovered doping products and blood bags.
While names of around 200 clients from the world of sport were reportedly found, only a few cyclists – including Italian star Ivan Basso – were sanctioned.
Alleged links to Fuentes, which have never officially been proven, effectively prompted the retirement of former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich of Germany.
Schleck has already reacted to the report, saying at the world road race championships late on Friday: “I’ve done nothing illegal. I have not doped.”
Schleck, whose younger brother Andy also rides for the CSC team, has in the past been linked to the Puerto affair, much like several other top riders.
Basso was snared by a codename on one of the blood bags, which was labeled with the name of his dog, “Birillo.” Some have claimed that another blood bag, labeled “friend of Birillo,” relates to Frank Schleck, who was a teammate of Basso’s at the time.
The 28-year-old Luxemburger, who in 2006 won the Amstel Gold Race and the Alpe d’Huez stage on the Tour de France, wore the yellow jersey for two days at this year’s race.
Three days prior to the final stage Schleck’s father Johnny, a former professional, was stopped and searched by French customs police who found no suspicious products in his car.