The husband and coach of French cycling legend Jeannie Longo, who is under the spotlight for missing three drugs tests, has been accused of buying the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin), according to reports Tuesday.
Former 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 and coach — with EPO in 2007.
The claims were made by Papp in a two-page report in French sports daily L’Equipe, which features examples of emails and faxes sent between Papp,
Ciprelli and a Chinese supplier of the drugs known only as Chen.
In an interview with the paper Papp claims Ciprelli contacted him to order 80,000 iu (units) of a Chinese version of the drug — called Eposino — in April 2007.
Papp said: “I sold EPO to Ciprelli around this time. He contacted our website and specifically asked how much it would cost for 80,000 iu of EPO to be sent to France. He mentioned it was for his wife.”
The French Cycling Federation (FFC) said it would launch an investigation into the claims and provisionally suspended Ciprelli from all coaching duties.
“In accordance with the federation’s anti-doping rules and given the gravity of the accusations we have decided to open disciplinary proceedings against Patrice Ciprell,” said a statement on www.ffc.fr.
“… the FFC president has also decided to provisionally suspend Mr. Ciprelli.”
Speaking to RTL radio, Ciprelli and Longo’s lawyer Bruno Ravaz hit out: “It’s crazy. Patrice Ciprelli totally denies any implication (in the affair), for him it’s all a bunch of lies.
“Jeannie Longo has never had anything to do with doping, so I can imagine how stunned she was when she heard this.”
Longo’s name is never mentioned in the correspondence.
However the accusations threaten to further tarnish the previously unblemished career of France’s most famous female cyclist.
The 52-year-old Longo, who was 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 the doyenne of the women’s peloton fell under suspicion when it was revealed she had 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 warn officials of her exact whereabouts ahead of random tests, and informed she could be banned for between three months and two years.
In a statement addressed to AFP last week the Frenchwoman said she had nothing to hide.
“I’ve been tested more than any other athlete in the world and not once has there been cause for any suspicion on my sporting integrity,” said Longo.
“I’m confident the French cycling federation will treat this matter in an impartial and objective manner.”
The latest accusations, however, threaten to bring a premature end to her career altogether.
According to the report, details of the accusations made by Papp have been handed to the U.S. anti-doping authorities and their French counterparts at the AFLD, which in turn has contacted police with a view to launching criminal proceedings.
In France the use, possession and supply of any kind of banned drugs is a criminal offence.