French court opens enquiry into Longo doping affair
GRENOBLE, France (AFP) — An enquiry has been opened by a court in the southeastern city of Grenoble into claims that the husband and coach of Jeannie Longo purchased the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin).
Former U.S. professional Joe Papp, an American who turned to supplying banned drugs to cyclists after being banned for doping himself, claims he supplied Patrice Ciprelli — Longo’s husband — with EPO in 2007.
‘The enquiry will examine “the circumstances under which the eventual purchase of doping products by her (Longo’s) husband and those who could have participated in it took place,” and “to see if there was an eventual regular importation of doping products,” a member of the court told AFP.
He added: “The facts relating to 2007 have reached their statute of limitations (since 2010, but it regards a probe into) eventual purchases after this date.”
Longo’s name is never mentioned in the correspondence and there is no proof that the athlete ever saw or used the banned drugs in question. However the accusations threaten to further tarnish the previously unblemished career of France’s most famous female cyclist.
The 52-year-old Longo, 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 claimed a total of 30 medals from the Olympics and world championships combined.
Last week it was revealed Longo had allegedly infringed strict anti-doping rules concerning athletes’ whereabouts three times during the past 18 months. Longo was warned three times by France’s National Anti-Doping Agency (AFLD) for failing to inform officials of her exact whereabouts ahead of random tests, and informed she could be banned for between three months and two years.