Roussel: Virenque bribed Ullrich in 1997 Tour
By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright 2001 AFP
In an about-to-be-released book, former Festina team manager Bruno Roussel alleges that bribery among Tour de France rider was common practice when he was a manager. Roussel’s “Tour of vices” is due to be published on Wednesday, and the French newspaper Le Monde has been serializing the book.Roussel, who has admitted organizing doping allegedly for health reasons in his team before the Festina scandal erupted in 1998, claimed that former king of the mountains Richard Virenque had “bought” a stage victory from German rider Jan Ullrich in 1997.Roussel also said that Virenque’s bribe offer to other riders to help him race hard in a breakaway to make time on race leader Jan Ullrich were laughed off.Roussel claims that former Festina rider Virenque, who is still suspended, paid 1997 Tour de France winner Ullrich to let him win the Courchevel stage in 1997.Ullrich, who was wearing the leader’s yellow jersey at the time, was allegedly paid 100,000 French Francs ($13,000) by Virenque to let him win the stage.Roussel also said that Virenque could have moved to within a hair’s breadth of winning the Tour in 1997, during a stage in the Vosges mountains where Ullrich had been dropped, but that Virenque’s offer of 10,000 FF ($1300) to each of the principal riders with him in the front group, namely Spaniard Abraham Olano and Italian Marco Pantani, who could have potentially helped him make time on the struggling Ullrich, was deemed too little.Virenque was the principal attraction of the Festina court trial in Lille last October where he finally admitted, after two years of staunch denial, to systematic doping in the Festina team.The five-time Tour de France King of the Mountains was suspended for nine months by the Swiss Cycling Federation, to which he is affiliated, after admitting to taking performance-enhancing drugs. The ban ends August 14, but will not allow Virenque to take part in this year’s Tour.